Interview with Gabriel Wolf
Interview conducted by Sargon the Terrible
Date online: November 5, 2003
Finnugor are one of the most exciting new Black Metal bands to hit my ears for a long time. Combining elements of the more basic BM bands like Mayhem or Darkthrone with the more symphonic leanings of bands like Emperor, Finnugor have created their own unique and compelling sound. I was very pleased when mainman Gabriel Wolf agreed to take some time and share some thoughts about this fascinating band.
Sargon: How did you come to name the band "Finnugor"? What was the origin and meaning of that?
Gabriel: A long time ago the Finnish and the Hungarian nations were only one nation. They spoke the same language, called the "Finnugor" language. Finnugor (our bandname) is a Hungarian word. It means "Finnish-Hungarian" in English. There is a Finnish version too: they call it "Finno-Ugrian" language family. So... Finnugor means "Finnish-Hungarian". It was a language family in the ancient times, when the Finnish and Hungarian people lived together. Our Finnugor band is a duo. One of the members (Nikolai Stalhammar) is Finnish. And I am (Gabriel Wolf) Hungarian. If my memory serves me well, I've never heard of any Finnish-Hungarian black metal bands before. That's why we thought we should give this name to our project. We are good friends and we would like the people to remember: the people of the two countries were the same nation many years ago. They were good friends...brothers... We would like to refresh this good relationship between the two nations, because we think we are quite similar. (our way of thinking....etc...)
Sargon: How did the project come together? (Not really a ‘band' as such) Can you give us a brief history?
Gabriel: Finnugor was formed in 2001 (September). My good friend Tomi Kalliola (in Finnugor band he uses the name "Nikolai Stalhammar") was telling me about his plans. He already had a lot of bands in those times... (he's the leader of Azaghal, Hin Onde, Wyrd, Vultyr, Oath of Cirion, Decay's Delight, Valar, With Hate I Burn, etc....) ...but he was planning to create one more (!) new black metal band. Most of his bands were true black metal bands or viking metal bands and he wanted to create a symphonic black metal project with gothic influences. In those times I spent most of my free time for my industrial band (Infra Black)... I told him, I would be really glad if I could be a member of his new black metal band, because I really like black metal and I would like to be involved in something different than electro-industrial music. For first he asked me to be the singer of the band. (at the very beginning) Later I started to write lyrics too... and also started to compose gothic songs and intros for the songs. I became the cover designer of the CDs too... and I found out the bandname and the album titles too.... At the very beginning I was invited almost as a "guest member". But later I became the leader of Finnugor band. I'm organizing almost everything alone around the productions (the CDs, videos, etc...).
A short story behind our first album (Black Flames): John Caldwell is the most famous fantasy writer here in Hungary. He's a friend of mine, and he's also a big black metal fan. When we finished our first Finnugor album with Nikolai, I sent it to him as a present, because I knew he likes black metal very much. He liked the album so much; he started to write a dark fantasy book, based upon our Finnugor album. The story of the book was based on the lyrics of the "Behind the Mirror" song. The whole book was written in the same mood, it's very dark, and the story of the book is exactly about our song lyrics. Every chapter begin with quotations from the Finnugor song. The book was released about 2 months later, after we sent the Finnugor CD to him. This book is one of his darkest and most special books what he has ever written. The book became a popular best-seller fantasy book in Hungary at the very beginning, it was really successful. I think they've already sold all the copies... what were about 20000 copies. I also could get a copy very hardly, because most of the copies were sold out already, some weeks after the book was released. The book made us (me and Nikolai) some kind of legendary black metal group... (in the army of the John Caldwell fans...not world-wide of course) Unfortunately in Hungary there aren't a lot of black metal fans, but the people who like it, I think they've already heard about this album for sure.
In the next year, Adipocere Records signed the band and they released the first album in September.
Later when we started to work on the second album (Death Before Dawn) I started to write different stories (song lyrics). This second album is not about only one conception. The album tells about a lot of scary horror stories (or sometimes about my own visions).
About at the middle of the work I invited Attila Csihar for guest featuring on the album (for the song "Cosmic Nest of Decay").
Some months later, Attila came home to Hungary and we recorded a video for the Cosmic Nest of Decay song. When the video was ready, I sent it to the biggest music TV channel in Hungary (VIVA+). They liked its eerie atmosphere and Attila's scary performance very much.
They have been playing our video for about half a year almost every week! (in their metal show, called "Megawatt") It's a very popular black metal video here. And also infamous. haha! Because it's so disgusting and aggressive. Maybe the most disgusting Hungarian metal video ever. Who knows? Maybe this is why it's so popular! haha So, the first thing what made us well-known in my country was the book, called "Black Flames" (written based upon our song lyrics).
And our second attack (for terrorising the people) was the Finnugor video (with Attila Csihar) for the second album. Nowadays, I think most of the Hungarian black metal fans heard about Finnugor band. And many people fear this name. (who saw our video on the TV) haha!
Sargon: I understand there is a story to "Death Before Dawn" that is continued from your first CD, can you tell us a little about that?
Gabriel: If you mean, the story of this album is a continuation of the Black Flames album, I have to say: no. Concerning the story, there isn't any connection between the two albums. There was connection between the first album and a book called "Black Flames" (with the same title). I was already talking about it.... (above) But the second album is an absolutely different story. I mean, the second album isn't only one story. This time there wasn't a main topic for the whole album. All the songs are different stories, like short horror/fantasy novels. The main topics of the lyrics are:
- vampires and sick, unworldly lust (Princess of Eternity)
- a shaman travelling to Hell... through the fire (Death Before Dawn)
- Armageddon, the last day on Earth... the Judgement Day (Solar Eclipse)
- energy vampires from an unknown dimension...from the deep space (Astral Fornication)
- the Lord of the Worms... who comes back from the dead. He gives his wisdom from the grave (decay) to the people... (Cosmic Nest of Decay)
- necromancers who are stealing bodies from a cemetery to re-animate them (From Hell I Still Remember)
- a demon from the darkest Hell, called "Korg Polaris". This one was based upon a book, written by "Leo Mills"... a good Hungarian fantasy writer.
- memories and thoughts of an insane, serial killer king, who slaughtered twelve young women (Ghosts Around the Bonethrone) ...
- I didn't mention the two instrumental songs here. (everyone can decide what are they about. Or everyone can dream or imagine his own story for the songs....)
Sargon: Tell us about your songwriting and recording process. How do the songs get written, and what kind of recording setup do you have?
Gabriel: I wouldn't like to talk about my music equipment. That's a part of my secret of "how the magic is born". But anyway, it was terribly expensive. Some years ago, I spent all my money for these stuffs. I also had to sell my brand new motorbike to buy these equipments.
Concerning the songwriting process: I use to compose songs in two different ways:
1 - Sometimes I write a song lyric when I'm in the mood (when I'm sad or angry or I'm fed up with all the shit of hard life)...
I write a lyric and I keep it for the future.... Later (sometimes 1-2 months later) I compose melody for the song.
And sometimes I also use lyrics for new melodies, what I wrote many years ago. A really good song lyric is always good. It never "expires" or it's never out of date. (in my opinion)
2 - In other cases I find out a melody in my mind and I'm composing almost the whole song in my mind... It takes 1-2 days usually. After I found it out, I sit down and I start to record it somehow. I'm composing the songs quite quickly. But the recording-mixing etc....takes a lot of time.(months!) When I'm working on a song (the instrumental melody without lyrics) I'm just falling into the mood of the song, and the lyric (for the song) "writes itself" quite quickly too.
...So, I'm using two composing techniques. I write the lyric for first and later I find out a melody for it. Or I find out a melody for first and when I'm working on the song I find out the lyric what fits the music the best. Sometimes I'm not in the mood to compose music...and I'm just writing lyrics. And sometimes, I don't want to write anything, and I'm only composing melodies for weeks or moths.
I use to do both of these things alone. My inspiration usually comes from my personal life. My life is full of problems and difficulties... I cannot do anything against them... they are useful for only one thing: inspiration for composing. (lyrics or melodies).
In my opinion, if somebody is absolutely satisfied with his life, in that case he wouldn't be able to compose anything what is really dark or "sick", or scary. That result would be only a mask (or a ridiculous clone) of "frightful music". If somebody wants to compose something really dark...or something what is full of real, deep feelings, then he needs a hard life, for sure. If everything would be easy in life, I think there wouldn't be dark music (or extreme art) at all!
Sargon: I know you don't play live, and so I won't ask about that, but do you mind if I ask just this: Is it an artistic decision or purely a practical one?
Gabriel: I never perform my songs live. I have two reasons for this:
- because I wouldn't call myself a performer. I'm a music composer, who likes to work on music very much, but I need calmness in my personal/private life. I don't like to be in the middle of hundreds of people. I can say, I am some kind of "lonely wolf". I always walk my way alone, or sometimes with my best friends. As I said, I need calmness and quietness in my personal life, to stay creative and individual. (that's why I can run 4 bands at the same time, and that's why I have so many musical ideas. It's hard for me to explain this in English, but I hope you understand.)
- the other reason is: In most of my projects I do everything alone!! (music composing, lyric writing, singing, CD cover designing etc...everything!) If I wanted to perform my songs live, I should pay a lot of guest musicians to play everything instead of me (what was originally used in the current song). I use a lot of instruments and equipments in my music, and it would be really expensive to find musicians to use each equipment in the live show. For example I would need about 16-20 people to perform an Ywolf song (or a Finnugor gothic song) on a live show, because there are so many instruments in that music. I use to record the music of the Ywolf songs in about 16-20 channels. Some of them are real instruments, some of them are digitalized sounds of real instruments, and some of them are synthesizer sounds. So, all these instruments, even if they were real instruments or a synthesizer sound, would deserve one musician who can handle the equipment as good (or even better) as me. That would be very expensive, you can imagine! I don't have so much money, to find and pay these lots of guest musicians. My only chance would be that, if I would play the music from playback, and only the vocals would be alive. But that would be ridiculous! I wouldn't like that. I'm not fuckin' Britney Spears or anything like that. (who likes playback very much).
Sargon: What do you call Finnugor's music? Black Metal? Folk Metal? What do you say to people who ask?
Gabriel: We (me and Nikolai) call it simply as "symphonic black metal". I think that's really meaningless when a lot of bands try to find out a new "description of style" for their band. That's ridiculous, because these bands (the melodic black metal bands) are NOT SOO different. For example: Night Metal, Pagan Metal, etc.... All of them are black metal, so what is this for? I don't know. So we call it "symphonic black metal". But it can be called as "gothic black metal" too. That means almost the same. Answering your question: Yes. Our music contains folk influences. So, sometimes we call our music "symphonic black metal with folkish elements/influences".
Sargon: I was very impressed with the look of "Death Before Dawn", how much control did you exercise over the art design, and are you pleased with the results?
Gabriel: A good artist is never absolutely satisfied with the result of his work. :-)
I'm a "maximalist". It's really hard to do a perfect work within a short time. (when the dead-line is near) But I always try to do my best of course. The designing of this CD cover took about a whole month. But if I would have some more time for it, maybe it could be even better. But on the other hand: yes, I'm satisfied with this CD cover. It's still one of my best works in my opinion. I like to do cover designing (I enjoy this kind of "art") but it takes too much time. And usually this time is missing from the music composing when I'm working on an album. This time I'm concentrating only on the music (now when I'm working on the third Finnugor album) and I leave the cover artwork for somebody else. (the cover of the next album will be designed by a very talented and professional designer) I'm enjoying cover designing but it takes too much time and this isn't too good for the album what I use to work on.
Sargon: What bands or musicians had an influence on Finnugor?
There are some bands, but we never wanted to copy any of them. We try to make our own individual music, but of course our favourite bands have influence on our work a little bit. Nikolai likes true black metal and viking metal (Tormentor... etc... I don't know what are his favourites right now. But Tormentor is one of his all time favourite bands) And I like symphonic black metal bands and gothic bands (Bal-Sagoth, Axamenta, Asgaroth, Dagorlad, Moonsorrow, Ancient Ceremony, Siebenbürgen, Limbonic Art....Dargaard, Weltenbrand) But do not think that our music is a mixture of these bands. Even if we like them, we always try to create an individual atmosphere and mood for our albums.
Sargon: The painting of Domina Mystico is really hot, did she pose for it?
Gabriel: I don't remember exactly that she posed for the painting in "real-time" or the painter used just a photo of her to create the picture. But anyway, yes! She's really hot! :-) And her voice is very angelic. This is why I had chosen her for speaking on this album.
Sargon: I understand you are already working on the next album. Can you tell us some about that? (when it will be released and so forth.)
Gabriel: I don't know the exact release date. The album will be ready only around the end of this year. But I guess it will be released next year (maybe around next summer-autumn)...by Adipocere Records....probably. Yes, we are already working on the next album with Nikolai. We have been working since June (2003), and we will finish the album some time at the end of this year. I'm organizing a very monumental production for this album. I think, this one will be my most monumental (and most expensive) production ever! And probably the best Finnugor album ever. There will be "some" surprises on this new album for the audience. I hope they'll like it and appreciate it. I wouldn't like to tell more about the upcoming album. But it will be quite surprising for the Finnugor fans. And also for the whole Hungarian extreme metal scene...maybe.... This is all what I can say. Let the other details hide in darkness until the album will be released! The title of the upcoming album will be "Darkness Needs Us": "...rotten flesh, sick-yellow eyeholes impending doom is knocking on your door this is disease, fiery pain, buried end grub-eaten universe, days of the dead!..."
Sargon: I know that you both are involved in other projects, do you want to tell us about those as well?
Gabriel: I have 3 other bands:
1 - Ywolf (dark gothic/neo classical band). I'm running this project alone. Sometimes my good friend, Nagy Andras (from Sear Bliss) use to be featuring on my albums as a guest singer. Ywolf is signed by the French "Adipocere Records". (earlier it was signed by the Russian "Irond Records" too)
2 - Infra Black (gothic industrial metal band) I'm running this one alone too. And sometimes my brother (Kevin Wolf) plays the metal guitars in some of the songs. Infra Black is also signed by the French "Adipocere Records".
3 - Aconitum Vulparia (cosmic/ritual dark ambient band) I'm running it all alone. This project is signed by the English "Cold Spring Records".
Nikolai has a lot of other bands. He uses different names for almost all of his bands: Nikolai Stalhammar, Tomi Kalliola, Narqath, Dragongod Narqath, NRQ.... all of them are the same person. He has about 12 other bands: 1 - Azaghal (true black metal band), 2 - Decay's Delight (gothic/neo-folk band), 3 - Hin Onde (viking metal band), 4 - Oath of Cirion (symphonic/fantasy black metal band), 5 - Svartalfheim (viking metal band), 6 - Valar (symphonic/fantasy black metal band), 7 - Varjosielu (symphonic black metal band), 8 - Vultyr (true black metal band), 9 - Weltraum (industrial band), 10 - Wind (gothic band), 11 - With Hate I Burn (industrial black metal band), 12 - Wyrd (viking black metal band) He's the leader of most of these bands. (maybe except Wind. If my memory doesn't cheat me, he's only the drummer in that band) Some of his bands are signed by Oaken Shield Records, Aftermath Records, Desolate Landscapes, Solistitium Records..... And some of them are signed by his own record label, called "Dragonthrone Productions". (those are "Vultyr" and "With Hate I Burn" bands).
...So, Nikolai and me have 15 other bands. (Finnugor is the 16th) But I'm still planning to start one more project later (in the future). That would be the 17th... :-)
Sargon: Anything else you would like to add?
Gabriel: Well, we promised something on the Death Before Dawn album. (In the lyrics of "Astral Fornication" song.) We promised: "we shall come back with the nightfall!" And we always keep our word. So get ready for our third attack!
At the end of this interview, let me take the opportunity to say hello to all my friends all over the world. Greetings (and many thanks) to all the musicians, bands, labels, magazines and everybody else who knows me.... or who knows/likes my music. And also thousands of thanks to my eternal lover: "Kryy". My life would be meaningless... frozen emptiness of nothingness without her. She loves me even if I use to be the embodiment of insanity sometimes. The things what I do... what are weird for most of the people.... she appreciates them. I think, she's the only one on this planet, who really knows who I am. Thank you Kryy, for loving me!
|Other information about Finnugor on this site|
|Review: Death Before Dawn|
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