1914 - Interview
Ukrainian shooting stars 1914 released their third album "Where Fear And Weapons Meet" last fall and I would dare to say that this album caused a lot of positive reactions around the world (review here). Having World War I as the major topic and using individual fates and sources out of that time as lyrical inspiration makes the band quite unique and much more credible than some other Swedish heavy metal wannabes who release album by album with some ridiculous stories and crappy music. I had the chance to talk to Sergeant Vitalis Winkelhock (thanks again for a nice chat!) aka Vitalii Vyhovskyi (guitar) via Skype about the new album, their musical and lyrical influences etc.
Hi! How are you doing?
All is good, thanks!
First of all, congratulations on the new album. Reviews were quite amazing, as far as I read them. Did you expect that "Where Fear And Weapons Meet" would be such a success?
I didn't expect that. I had very mixed feelings because we encountered a lot of problems during the work on the album. There was some time shortage, but you know, all the time you create something and you listen to it over and over again, of course there are moments you would like to change or left out something but with the overall positive reviews, I think it's okay.
What makes the difference between the new album and "The Blind Leading The Blind" in your opinion?
It's the approach to songwriting, to the recording and the sound we're using. We had to learn from previous mistakes, and we had to approach to the songwriting differently. We didn't have a year to polish the songs, but it was the creation of the music, going to the studio and recording it and eventually going on tour with it.
You have dealt with WWI on the other two albums and on this one, too. Where do you get all the ideas for the lyrics from? There are a lot of individual fates in the lyrics, not only places or battles… what are your sources?
We get all our inspiration from our singer. He's a WWI nerd and he's working as an archaeologist. He's been doing this stuff for more than 15 years and he always wanted to combine this passion in life, work and in music. This is the main inspiration, and he has access not only to some public sources like Wikipedia but also to some restricted accounts where you have to prove your identity and your degree to be able to get access to such materials. These are the main sources of the stories and the material we built our stories on.
Why are you so fascinated with that time? Is it because it was the first let's say technological war where you didn't need to see your opponent to kill him? Or is it the vast destruction of a wide landscape (like for example the zone rouge in France or the battle of Verdun where on 26 km² were about 10 million projectiles with a weight of 1,35 million tons were fired), what is it?
It's awesome that the stuff is still down in the ground there and it can blow up everything. There was a family camping in the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, and they were celebrating some date and did a campfire. There was a projectile under the bonfire, and it exploded even after 100 years. Two people died instantly because of that. But coming back to your question, I would say that it was the fact of the first technological war that people implemented the machine guns, tanks, first use of radiation and also the so-called last gentlemen. There were some bigger acts of honor when for example the confederates could treat the conquered side with respect and with honor and these stories inspire me a lot.
When reading about the WWI, there is one really fascinating story that always comes up in my mind and shows the insanity and senselessness of war – namely the Christmas peace in 1914 where the enemies celebrated Christmas together in the trenches and even gifted each other presents before they killed each other again after the holidays. Do you know about that?
We already wrote a song about this on our first album. It's called 'Frozen In Trenches (Christmas Truce)'. This is somehow related to the previous question I told you about the honor and the gentlemen. For me personally this represents pretty much how the ordinary people were involved into a conflict of empires, a conflict of someone’s political and territorial ambitions and you can see that people usually do not like to kill each other. Maybe there are some exclusions but in general it's not that bad in this episode as it is described.
Did you ever visit some of the historical places of WWI?
We had a very cool trip when we first played in the Netherlands and in Belgium. For me personally the highlight was to visit the site of the Battle of Ypres, Passendale and the city of Ypres itself. It was absolutely ruined and after the war rebuilt and you can see all the old plates on the buildings like 1920, 1922 because everything was built up again because nothing was left there after this long battle that lasted there. We have also visited a lot of museums in these areas, and I was impressed about how people treat their national heritage and the memory because here in Eastern Europe, especially in the Ukraine, Soviets deleted almost all memory of the WWI because it was not too much interest in it and it was not necessary for them and not to compare to the WWII. People talk less about the WWI here. I was impressed when I first came to the Benelux countries how they treat their memories. They have it everywhere like these plates and gravestones, even in every smaller village.
What is the intention behind 1914? Do you want to entertain or to inform with your lyrics?
My motto was always to tell a story. So, we are not only singing the songs but we have a message and we always want to tell a story. We always want to bring up the stories to people. And now we can see some results when people message us and tell us stories like how they discovered some family stuff, how they discovered their relatives were taking part in the conflict they didn't even know before. They start digging stories about their family and the area they live in. It's not only people from Europe but also often we get some messages from people across the ocean like the United States. I'm really happy when I see such results and it makes me move forward.
Listening to your music, what would you say – are you more into black or death metal?
On this album definitely more death metal prevails but I would say in general…. we are invited to black metal shows, doom metal shows and we are playing at death metal gigs… I would say it's like a combination of these three.
I think "Where Fear And Weapons Meet" spreads a gloomier atmosphere than its predecessor. "BLTB" was far more aggressive and hateful, I think. Would you agree with that?
There was not a specific intention to make a gloomier atmosphere or more aggressiveness, but it was a time period where this music was created in and it was the end of the first lockdown and a lot of personal problems and a lot of problems with the band because we couldn't play or go touring. I think that this gives some stamps on you and what you're creating. This probably led to some more aggression. But as I said, there was no special intention; it was what came out of the mind from some people.
What are the bands that you are influenced by the most?
I'm more death metal guy since my school time. So, the bands that opened this metal world for me were representatives of US and especially Florida death metal, Dutch and Swedish death metal, too. They are my influences but as a band, we are five people, and we all have totally different tastes in music. Everyone tries to add something specific. I'm trying, since I am a huge fan of Swedish Gothenburg melodic death like At The Gates or Dark Tranquility, to add some pieces of melodic stuff. We have people who are more into punk, hardcore, grindcore or brutal death background so we all come together with that. My favorites were always Sepultura, Hypocrisy, pretty much everything by Behemoth. I like Polish metal scene; it has some beautiful bands but 80% of the stuff I'm listening to is from Scandinavia.
How did it come to the guest appearances by Sasha Boole and Nick Holmes? Who had the idea for that?
It was our idea because Sasha Boole is our friend. We know each other for quite some time and he is one of the most brilliant and most talented Ukrainian performers and artists. I have a huge respect for him. We had a song not specifically written for Sasha but which was intended sound like a quiet song which was played on some small instruments which could be played by the soldiers in their trenches. I never was to be intended as a black or death metal song and when we got the lyrics, we got the main idea that who could we ask to play this? If it would have had been played by us there wouldn't have been this atmosphere. Our first thoughts were to ask Sasha. We called him and sent him this first demo of the song and we left it as it was.
About Nick Holmes, we are huge Paradise Lost fans and some people in the band possess the complete collection of them, tapes, CDs, vinyl – everything. The first time in three albums we had an idea to do a chorus in the song with clean vocals. Our singers’ vocals weren't too good for the song because he's more into punk and we needed a person who could do both clean and harsh vocals at the same time. And because we all are these huge Paradise Lost fans, number one on our list was Nick Holmes. There was some hesitation and there were some doubts because he and his band are legendary and why would he do something for a no-name band from the Ukraine? But we just wrote him an e-mail and he responded. We sent him the idea behind it, the lyrics and described that it is a real letter written by a man who lived in the same area as Mr. Holmes lives. He requested the demo and after two or three days he mailed us back that he really liked the song and that he wants to participate. He is a very comfortable person, very professional and he did everything perfectly without that we had to explain anything.
What about concerts? I saw today that Sankthell in Hamburg (27th and 28th December) was cancelled….
Yeah, unfortunately that show was cancelled. I had the hope that we could travel to play there because I wanted to meet some of my friends from different bands and I hope next time this will happen. The closest plans that we have are that we have a big album presentation show in Kiev and a European tour in spring. These are 16 or 17 shows from March to May.
Finally, one more question – why do you think history is important? That's a question my pupils always ask me….
History gives us important lessons about ourselves, about countries and decisions we choose. Of course, humanity always fails to learn these lessons, but my hope is by doing this kind of music and this thematic I can touch a couple of hearts of different people in different parts of the world. Many people think that their mobile phone is more important than books or critical thinking, but critical thinking is what is necessary now. I live in the Ukraine, and I feel a huge sadness for the Ukrainians because of the results of the last election, the vaccination rate and the comments of the people to this. Today I saw a FB post of our major where he said that everybody, please should get vaccinated because everything will be closed and just work for vaccinated people. The post had approximately 1000 comments and when I read some of them, I instantly wanted to pack my thing and escape to Sweden, Germany or the Netherlands not to see this level of bullshit anymore. That's why history is important, to make the people more educated.
Thank you very much for the interview!!!
It was a pleasure to talk to you!!
Where Fear And Weapons Meet
The Blind Leading The Blind
Für Kaiser, Volk Und Vaterland!
Eschatology Of War / Für Kaiser, Volk Und Vaterland
Eschatology Of War
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