Voha - Interview
Black Metal is a widely expanded sub-genre across the globe, but the most contributing factor to that would have to be the existence of various one-man projects that only keep popping up, but never quite manage to gain some attraction even when it's deserved. There are two ways that we as listeners and enthusiasts can look at this situation: 1) There is always plenty of fish in the sea, 2) There's too much garbage constantly polluting the ocean. Whatever you make of it, it's always important to have in mind that not everything should be overlooked in the end, because you never know when you might run into some hidden gems. One of such bands that I was lucky enough to come across is Voha from Croatia, which was around the time when the debut album "Celestial Winter Sadness" was still relatively fresh. Although skeptical at first, I simply had to give it a try out of pure curiosity. Upon hearing the album, I really liked the overall output and the direction which Voha was taking, but I personally fell deeply in love with the "Tama" EP which came out not long after. Soon after I started messaging Grof Vragovzov and the next thing you know, we were sharing some opinions on black metal bands and the genre as a whole, while also talking about various other subjects along the way. For this occasion, I've decided to conduct an interview with the man himself, so I could dive deep to get to know his artistic side better and see what really lies within the mind of this young and passionate individual that is behind the black metal act Voha.
Greetings brother Vragovzov, I wish you a warm welcome on behalf of the MetalBite crew!
Hello, my brother, thank you for giving me a chance to be part of this interview.
I've known you for quite some time ever since I first came across Voha on social media by accident, back when your debut album Celestial Winter Sadness was still fresh. I would like to know more about your musical background and the beginning of Voha. When and how did this idea for a one-man black metal project begin? Have you played in some other bands before settling down to start a band/project of your own?
Well, there is an interesting story. I always wanted to have a one-man project that was supposed to be black/thrash, but over time I realized that old school black metal melodies had much more impact on my musical progress than any other genre and that I am essentially more connected to the melodic sounds of keyboards and cold symphonies. I mostly tried to choose the topic in the circles of Croatian culture, such as the very name Voha, which has its roots in stories from Zagorje.
Many black metal musicians around the world are mostly inspired by nature, mythology or historical events, which help them express their fascination in their lyrics, but since the project is named after a malicious spirit from local folklore that haunts children, what is your biggest source of inspiration beside the legend?
Hmm, interesting. Probably because I have always been connected to my country, its wonderful nature and an energy that it carries with itself. Croatia is a mystery, a thousand-year-old kingdom and a divine country that nevertheless instills certain traits at birth and shows "hey, I'm Croatian". After all, themes in black metal are a very specific term for a genre like it, and they are too commercial. Above all, through my, sometimes ironic lyrics, I seek the beauty of the soul and nature. To give light to darkness, good to man, but to show his dark sides, that he is a mammal who also feels melancholy and darkness, but also feels goodness and faith in a "better man". We all have that feeling of hope, but today it is hard to sympathize with better times. People are the subject of the philosophy of this world, they are a gift and a global disaster, but until the blackness and bad relations with nature that we ourselves have, we cannot expect a better tomorrow. Nature takes and gives back; it is our greatest friend and enemy. That's why my lyrical theme is nature and "irony", although it is sometimes unrecognizable, it is the key to show that darkness has light, and light has darkness. There is a good saying from the mathematician Pythagoras who says: "As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other".
I know that many musicians like yourself would cite the most common musical influences of this subgenre when asked this question, but I would like to know specifically which ones are your biggest influences that you'd really highlight for personal reasons? I.e., which top 5 musicians or albums really helped you build your musical perspective and gave you a strong push to help you go further?
Here it is, I will make two categories in which I will arrange my five musicians who introduced me to music as an art itself.
First category (technical) – playing an instrument itself.
1) Vegard Sverre Tveitan (Ihshan) - EMPEROR
2) Niclas Andersson (Vassago) – LORD BELIAL
3)Erik Danielsson (E.) - WATAIN
4) Frédéric Chopin (composer) – /
5) Alexi Laiho – CHILDREN OF BODOM
I love classical music, especially romanticism and impressionism, which I adore and think that it is music from some outer cosmical force.
Second category (songwriting) – construction of songs and tone
1) Ville Pystynen (Shatraug) - HORNA
2) Євген Гапон (Knjaz Varggoth) – NOKTURNAL MORTUM
3) Ludovic Faure (Famine) – PESTE NOIRE
4) Lauri Penttilä (Werwolf) – SATANIC WARMASTER
5) Markus Hartmann (Widar) - BILSKIRNIR
At my teenage age, I fell in love with the Finnish black metal scene. Their tone and riff making techniques are the ones that I am trying to incorporate in my music. Also, the reason that I mentioned Knjaz was because he is one of my first influences in piano and synth songwriting. One of the things I would also mention is that one of my favorite artists is "Neige" or Stéphane Paut. His project Alcest is not considered totally black metal, but when I read his simple lyrics and those tunes remind me where to find my light and my emotions. I also listen to various types of music, such as blues, classical music, hip hop, jazz, techno, synthwave 80s, country etc…
When working on your music, how do you approach your songwriting? One-man projects like yours tend to have a strong focus where they pay close attention that they don't repeat themselves or come up with something that already sounds familiar and thus work more to change for the better. How do you set the goals for each new thing you're working on, what do you think should be the primary objective of every new Voha song?
Black metal is a genre that is based on extremely important knowledge of music, because when composing such melodies, it is important to know all those parts of music theory that are necessary for quality "songwriting", such as scales, rhythm, melodic construction, measures and the most important (technical) details, extremely technically good playing. First, you should know that all these wonderful symphonies hide their charm behind a grotesque and distorted sound, but they are all written in sheet music, where the paper itself can say "this is a musical masterpiece". So, my point is when I create music, it should be written as a symphony of musical knowledge and epic-ness. My music should be triumphal and that is my primary goal that I am trying to achieve also with my upcoming albums.
Could you tell us a bit more about your musical pseudonym Grof Vragovzov and the meaning behind it? Why have you chosen this name specifically and is it something of a Count Grishnackh/Greifi Grishnackh inspired pseudonym?
(Smiled, laughed) – Well that pseudonym was created when I wrote song 'Vragovzov' from my EP "Tama". That nametag was actually made up by my dear friend Mario Bošnjir, ex singer of band Stribog, and it is quite interesting that he made the word Vragovzov and I just added Count at the beginning. Well, my brother, you mentioned Varg, but I had no background to have my pseudonym as Count Grishnackh. The whole concept of Vragovzov is just a dark fantasy story about a lonely count who was once a great leader and gave up his soul to the Devil. He is the powerful and mighty lord of his land, but he is lonely and forgotten. As I already said in the song where "time dust has splattered his tomb".
What is your personal perspective on the modern-day black metal scene and various bands/projects out there? Do you consider it more as a very deep ocean with plenty of fish in the sea or do you perhaps consider it as a polluted wilderness, where too much garbage stands in the way to behold nature's beauty?
Modern scene is not making any progress. While there are many bands in the black metal circle out there, not so many achieve their goals to actually express what this genre actually means. Those satanic crap and devil worshiping moments are so annoying to me, metal used that anarchic impact to show that this genre is not mainstream, yet those bands are still using "satanic" image and somehow, they are becoming more mainstream than ever, which I already said is not black metal at all. Well, you said that beautiful brother (laughs). Our scene is like an ocean where every fish breeds its own project. Too much for a genre like this in my opinion. That is one of the reasons why black metal is "dying" day by day.
Which of the two Voha releases is currently the most preferred one? I.e., which one of the two managed to impress people more, and for what reason do you believe it to be so?
Well, I think that "Celestial Winter Sadness" is currently the most preferred one, cause when I look at the statistics (views, likes and comments) I think that "CSW" had a much more impact on the scene. In my opinion "Tama" is a really good EP, because I improved some of the details on this EP such as new drums sound, guitar tone and better production. Also, vocals on Tama are recorded with higher quality than one on "CSW". I think both impressed people, but when we look through the situation on the scene "CSW" is a cold album and it has those old-school, raw black metal vibes and also one of the reasons why "CSW" is really preferred one, because it is the first album of my project.
What plans have you envisioned for Voha this year? Are you planning on releasing another album in the near future or something else entirely?
Of course, I am planning to release one new EP by the end of September, at least I hope I will do it. There will be good albums in the future, because I am constantly working on something new. I will just tell you a little detail about an upcoming EP, it will be raw and cold, something similar to "CSW".
Do you think that the Croatian black metal scene will someday see its revival and earn more respect from other countries that failed to see its potential?
No, my brother, It will certainly not. Croatia is a small European country, and it can't dominate those huge black metal scenes such as the Polish, Norwegian and Finnish ones. We Balkans are carrying something dark and wild within ourselves. That is the reason why the scene is small but yet so powerful. This music is not for everybody. I don't want to say that I am an elitist, but black metal is a genre which is melodic and disharmonic at the same time. People will say, it's obnoxious yelling and just some crazy guitar tones, but you should reach "cosmic keys to your creations and times" to feel the beauty of this music. What I mean is that you should seek the point that light has darkness which is beautiful and not evil at all. There are many bands on the scene which are just boring, and they misunderstand the point of black metal. People recognize our talents when we create music that is wild and raw but it's not recognizable as these big circles.
Musicians such as yourself have a "burning desire" to be known more and be signed to a major label that will help them achieve a higher status, so which major label would you choose as an ideal one for Voha to be signed to and for what reason?
I always craved for some small labels. Nothing special or big, because in my opinion it is really easy to work with them. It would be great to be under the sign of big labels such as Season of Mist, Osmose Productions and even Nuclear Blast, but I think business with them would be complicated, so I would stick with smaller labels always. In my opinion, I would personally choose Peaceville Records as a major label.
Thank you so much for doing this interview brother and I wish you great success in your further career. Are there any final words you'd like to leave to all the people reading this?
Thank you for your kind words dear brother. Long live nature and Mother Earth. In darkness you can find cure for an irony, and in it you shall find your light. Thank you for this great interview and cheers to MetalBite Magazine.
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