ZT INTERROGATION: WITH JUST OVER 2 WEEKS TO GO, MARTIN WALKYIER DISCUSSES HIS VIKING FUNERAL EVENT!
On February 19th Martin Walkyier brings his Viking Funeral event to the capital, where he’ll be performing a set of Skyclad classics under the name Martin Walkyier Goes Skyclad. Martin talked exclusively to Zero Tolerance’s Chris Kee about the history behind the event, the great bands that are appearing and why YOU should get out there and support the metal underground…
The Viking Funeral event first began with a free event held in Nottingham in 2012. What lead to that first event taking place? What were the inspirations behind it?
“Well it was basically a birthday piss up that got very much out of hand. I had two friends coming over from Argentina, from the folk metal band Skiltron, they were coming to visit and it was my birthday on the 20th of September. It started off that we were going to have a little unplugged jam of some Skyclad tracks and get thoroughly wazzled in a pub. That then turned into suddenly recruiting a band from all over the place to do a set of Skyclad tracks and then before we knew it we had thirteen bands, we had two stages, an unplugged thing downstairs with three people playing and ten bands upstairs. It all mutated a bit and got very out of hand. The Nottingham Irish centre, where the gig was held, is a great venue, but they had no staging there and I’ve got better lights in my kitchen than in the venue! So, in a panic, I rang my mate up, Richard, who does lights for Lacuna Coil, Cradle and Dimmu Borgir and I said to Richard ‘you can’t help us out with a few lights?’ And he said ‘yeah, I’ll sort you out and get some staging as well’. I thought it would all fit in the back of a Ford Escort van or something…god, we had to load all these stage boards in and this entire lighting rig…you’ve never seen so much kit in your life! Nearest thing I’ve come to doing hard work for years! We were basically trying to rehearse with a band that had never met before and build a gig around us while we were doing it. So we’d have a run through the songs and then put up a bit of lighting truss… I was collapsing by the end of it! Then when it was over it still took us like three days to dismantle everything out of the venue again. It was a bit of hard work…but everyone loved it I think, apart from me! We raised about a grand when all was said and done, for Cancer Research UK. It was free to get in and we just did it for a worthy cause…so that’s where that all started.”
You’re hoping to raise money for Cancer Research UK again with this second Viking Funeral event…
“Yes, I’m going to be there, rattling a collection bucket. You don’t get much change for drinks in London, but if anyone’s got some change from the bar then stick it in the bucket and we’ll try and raise some more money if we can. That’d be good.”
Why the support for this charity in particular?
“Well I’ve lost family members to cancer and I’ve also lost two good mates, the year before last. Well before their time as well. One of my friends, Jo, used to be the drummer in Rock Bitch, she was fit as a fiddle one day then found out she had breast cancer and died six weeks later. It’s not like she was a smoker or a drinker or a party animal…she was as fit as a fiddle, muscles on muscles on muscles. We’ve all lost someone haven’t we? There are two kinds of people in this world, those who’ve already lost someone to cancer and, sadly, those who are going to at some stage. It’s just a shame that charities like this are doing all the research. It should be governments doing it I think. Instead of spending money on weapons and wars they should be spending their time trying to keep people alive.”
What has brought you back to the music of Skyclad after so many years away from the band? What reignited your interest in performing the songs?
“Well, basically we can blame Elvenking for that! They contacted me last year in February and invited me out to do a show with them in Moscow; they said the promoter was wondering if I would come out and do some Skyclad songs with them. They’re like hardcore fans, they grew up listening to all the stuff…they probably know it better than I do! In fact they definitely do. So I went out there with them, not knowing what to expect and it was absolutely brilliant, best laugh I’ve had in ages. Then in December last year, just gone, I played a festival with them in Holland, the Eindhoven Metal Meeting, which was the same sort of thing – just turn up and play – and that was absolutely brilliant. It’s the easiest way to do it to be honest Chris. They’re professionals – and I purport to be! As long as we all know roughly how the song starts and finishes! There’s plenty of adrenalin involved! Will we all end the song at the same time? It keeps you on your toes!”
Did you consider asking the current incarnation of Skyclad to be involved with the Viking Funeral?
“Not really. A lot of things went off you see, back in the day. I’ve not really had contact with them. There’s reasons why you leave a band you’ve formed and done however many albums with. It just wasn’t working for me. There were lots of issues and I obviously don’t want to stir anything up, but it just wasn’t happening for me. Me and the drummer, Jay Graham, we were both fed up with the whole thing. It was a bit of a heart-rending decision to leave, it wasn’t something I did on a whim. I thought about it and realised it was time to move on from that. It’s sort of more fun for me to do the songs with different bands now. I’ve done a festival in Argentina with Skiltron, last year I played at a festival in Brazil with Tuatha De Danann who are a Brazilian folk metal band who are absolutely brilliant, good friends. I just like to do things that are enjoyable these days to be honest!”
Italian folk/power metallers Elvenking are the main support band at the Viking Funeral and also provide the musical muscle for Martin Walkyier Goes Skyclad. Was that Moscow performance your first meeting with the band?
“No, I’ve known the lads for years – although I’ve not actually seen them that much. Elvenking were booked to play at either the first or second Bloodstock, when it was indoors. They were booked to play and what happened was, their singer Davide, he suffers with Crohn’s disease and when he has an attack of that it levels the poor lad. So he couldn’t come over and do the show, but seeing as the band had all the flights and hotels booked I said ‘right lads, plan B, we’ll knock together a 40 minute set of Skyclad tracks and do that!’ So that’s what we did and it was great – really good fun. So that’s where it all started with Elvenking. They are an amazing live act with their own stuff, they’re absolutely brilliant. This will be their first time in the UK properly as at that Bloodstock fourteen years ago they were playing Skyclad tracks. So it’s going to be a bit of a launch for them.”
Venom fanatics are going to be thrilled to see M:Pire Of Evil on the bill, the band that features both Jeff Mantas and Tony Dolan…
“Yeah, awesome aren’t they? The plan is for me to do one or two Venom covers with them. Maybe ‘Countess Bathory’ and I think the violin player from Elvenking is learning some gypsy violin for it. Some wacky Hungarian, gypsy violin, so that should be interesting.”
It was quite a surprise to see German thrashers Exumer on the bill. They produced two classic albums in the mid ‘80s, Possessed By Fire and Rising From The Sea, but this will be a very rare opportunity to see the band on British soil…
“Exumer haven’t played in the UK since 1987! How much more metal can you get? How much more exclusive? I think it’s worth £17:50 just to see them! They’re what I grew up with; I was listening to them when I was writing the first Sabbat lyrics.”
And then opening the bill are British heavyweights Raven’s Creed…
I’m friends with Raven’s Creed. We needed another band for the bill and I thought, ‘they’re good lads, friends and a brilliant band’. So you’ve got M:Pire Of Evil, you’ve got the thrash of Exumer, you’ve got whatever Raven’s Creed are…death metal I think they call themselves, Elvenking who are very heavy but very melodic folk metal…and then I come on and ruin it all with 45 minutes of Skyclad!”
Can you give us any hints as to what sort of Skyclad material you’ll be performing at the Viking Funeral? Will you be concentrating on particular albums, or looking to cover as much of your time with the band as possible?
“It’s just a mixture. As we’re not rehearsing it’ll be about a 45 – 50 minute set. What I do with Elvenking is, as they’ve got more learning to do, I let them choose. So we’ll see what they fancy doing. That’s what we did in Moscow and Holland. I just said ‘you lads pick. If you know the classics then let’s just do the classics’. Like I said, there are no rehearsals involved, it’s all on a wing and a prayer. If they weren’t so professional it wouldn’t work!”
The bands we’ve discussed above make up the bill for the London and Birmingham shows, but the Viking Funeral will also be making its way to Dublin and Glasgow, where different supporting casts will be opening up for Martin Walkyier Goes Skyclad and Elvenking. Can you talk us through the line-ups for these two dates?
“In Dublin we’ve got Waylander and Celtachor who are both great bands, so that really is a folk metal extravaganza. Then in Glasgow we have Norderobring and Cnoc An Tursa…and I think I’m meant to be getting up and doing a track with Norderobring so I better learn that as well! I’ve got some work to do!”
Any last words for people planning to turn out and support the Viking Funeral? Or to convince those who are considering a ticket purchase?
“Come on! What more can we offer you? We’ve got Raven’s Creed, we’ve got Exumer for the first time, we’ve got M:Pire Of Evil with the ex-Venom guys, we’ve got Elvenking doing their debut UK shows and me getting up and doing some classic Skyclad that you’re not going to hear anywhere else with me on vocals. Come along and support it because if we can make this one work we’ll do another one next year, something even bigger and better. One day, if you all help and support me, I’ll do a festival that’s a proper festival where you’re not paying five pounds a drink and ten pounds for a soggy burger. We’ll try and make something that really is done by fans, for fans, not run by corporate things, no kind of business bullshit. Metal to me is nuts and bolts music; it’s angry, protest, working class music. It shouldn’t be owned by big business. If I win the lottery I’ll put something on for free for all the boys and girls out there – but failing that, I need plenty of people to come along and support this. Not just the Viking Funeral shows though; anything small and underground – support it! Because when it’s gone, you’re really going to miss it. So come along, and if nothing else you’ll get to see me struggle to remember all the lyrics!”