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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Protokult Interview

1. Can you give us an update on what has been going on with the band since the recording of the new album?

The recording took longer than usual, studio obligations, funding, other projects, and I think COVID actually benefitted us finally releasing it, however, all the bookings and potential dates for supporting it this year have gone out the window. We’ve been looking at new merch in the meantime, writing new material and everyone has some extra time to focus on their own projects at the moment.

2.You have a new album coming out in October, musically how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?

I’d say it’s the most consistent. There’s an appropriate “breathing room” here and there but it’s a banger from start to end. The age-old formula works so we try to stay true to what makes metal great in the first place,

Heavy metal is alive and well. Perhaps it’s meant to thrive in a more underground subculture and that’s part of what makes it rewarding. Specifically, musically, it’s a rush meant to be enjoyed either as a whole journey or at any entry point, we’ve ensured that.

We felt the tracks flowed really well and gelled with each other, every time we play them, we still get that rush and wanted to capture that energy and voyage on record. We approached this record with a bit more maturity and consistency so the result is heavier, faster, darker. Of course there are still some party-themed, fun moments but we never wanted to be a one-trick pony.

With Transcending The Ruins, it’s like a mature, refined version of the first record, it’s heavy where it has to be, and there are female parts (exclusively) where they have to be, so it’s not a forced fit.

3. This is also your first release since 2016, can you tell us a little bit more about what has been going on during that time frame?

Two summers were spent recording the album, we didn’t wrap up until 2019! Some members chose career paths, mortgages, so as fun as that life stuff is, it’s time-consuming. We started demoing for the album around 2017 and playing the odd gig here and there. We’re hometown heroes and faves but it’s nice to try and get out of that circle when possible, so a few out-of-town gigs, some fun acoustic ones too were played as well as some bigger ones around Toronto.

4. A lot of your lyrics cover Paganism themes, which forms of paganism do you connect with the most?

Slavonic/Eastern-European primarily, as that is where the majority of the band originates from and associates with. A lot of us have heard tales from childhood, have seen films with references, or even operas, so those forms, rituals, and superstitions tend to stick.

I’d love to explore (and admire those who do) Canadian-First Nation/Aboriginal forms but I do not think it would be genuine for us – we are still on THEIR land – the real Canadians.

5. What are some of the other lyrical topics and subjects the band has explored over the years with the music?

The best teacher is experience, so there are a few personal songs like Feed Your Demons, Troubled Lad and Valley Of Thorns, so of course life experience and reflection play a role. Otherwise, the fascination with folklore, history, and nature is still persistent in tracks like Mark Of Thunder, Oy Kanada, 1516, and Rusalka.

6. What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Protokult'?

Inspired and fascinated by various metal genres alongside folk-culture, after a few years of experimenting, Protokult was meant to fuse the two together while paying homage to the past and honoring the underground. Essentially, it’s a tribute to all the loners, delinquents, misfits who never fit in and want to do their own thing, musically or anything else. It’s about standing up for what you believe in and hopefully bonding with like-minded individuals; a preliminary cult, so to speak.

7. Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?

The front cover and back were painted by Ukrainian-Canadian artist, Marie Cherniy and depicts a siren-like figure in a pool of blood. She is holding a dove, which represents either the possibility for peace or peace coming to an end. The blood itself acts as a portal to Transcendence (through one's own blood or that of others) and the crumbling ruins behind her evoke a need to move on and leave the past (or current state) behind.

We didn’t want something typically “metal”, but somewhat dreamy, thought-provoking, artsy, and just metal enough.

8. What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?

We’ve played a few Paganfests in our hometown over the years, often we’ll play with Arkona when they’re passing through. Great band. In 2018 we did a wild show with Alestorm and Gloryhammer at the Danforth Music Hall which was an unrelenting ritualistic assault, all night!

I guess that’s one way of describing our performance: Relentless, an intoxicating nightly assault.

9. Currently, the band is unsigned, are you open to working with another label again in the future?

We are always on the lookout and willing to review offers, as much as I support and admire smaller DIY labels, there has to be a plan and a sense of dedication, looking out for your artist/client. It’s almost like if you’re not with a major label these days, you’re probably better off being independent. And even then, a lot of “artists” would be willing to do their own thing,

10. On a worldwide level, how has the reaction been to your music by fans of folk metal?

   The fans who actually listen a little deeper to the records can attest that we’re more than some drinking-metal gimmick band (I.E people who listen to more than just a single or Get Me A Beer hah!), I don’t usually care for reviews but there have been some kind words of how we are a bit darker, more progressive than initially presented/perceived. It’s a total niche genre/market so I am grateful for all the fans and listeners willing to tune in and appreciate our art, South America, Europe, America, and of course all our dedicated Canucks! (Canadians)

11. What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?

Our young guitar star, Jack has a few things he is a part of. Vias, Pterodactyl Problems, more rock-based but they are always keeping busy and active.

He and Kaveh (drums) actually have a great new thrash band as well- Korrosive. Very riff-based and proper.

Kaveh also has this epic-black metal thing he’s been doing for years, Into Oblivion

And Ekaterina has been focusing more on the folk-groups, which is her specialty.

Meden Glas is a group of scholars who focus usually on traditional songs from the Balkans and Blisk is a group of awesome ladies who do more of the Eastern-European tunes.

Myself, I try to honor Type O Negative with a few tribute gigs every year in a band called Xero Tolerance and I also play keyboards and compose in a symphonic-goth-doom local act, Mortalfall who have just released their first demo/EP. Highly recommended for fans of those genres.

All those groups are available online at the usual sources/links.

12. Where do you see the band heading musically during the future?

  Despite the odd experimentation or fascination, most of us are heavy metal fans/traditionalists at heart (Thrash metal, black, death) so that foundation and essence will always be there. With this new release, it’s definitely more in your face and at the forefront. We’ve already started to write a few new heavy tunes in that more blackened-thrash-speed direction (with melodic-folk finesse of course) so whether we’ll release them as singles, a split or even a possible EP we’ll see what happens over the next year or so with the industry and interests.

13. What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

Of course the pioneers of the folk-heathen genres, Arkona, Skyclad, Skyforger, Bathory, Pagan Reign, Drudkh, Nokturnal Mortum as well as the traditional forefathers I.E Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Emperor, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Sodom to name a few.

There’s tons of new music being released and unfortunately, we cannot keep up! There’s a theory that the best music you keep coming back to is from your nostalgic pre-teen to young adult years, so obviously we still party and listen to bands/albums we listened to 20+ years ago.

New(ish) music that some of us take a fancy to these days include bands like Legend, Solstafir (both unique Icelandic groups), Midnight, Mgla, Ruins of Beverast, Tarot, Black Magick SS and Blut Aus Nord.

14. What are some of your non-musical interests?

With age, it’s essential you stay fit, both mentally and physically in this modern crazy age. I hit the gym, regularly lift weights, go bike riding or hiking in our beautiful Canadian nature, play the odd tennis game, and hit the hills/mountains snowboarding in the winter months. Traveling the world and exploring history and culture is strived for at least once or twice a year.

  I’m constantly engaged in literature, often reading 2-3 books at once, all the while trying not to get bogged down in the fear tactics and politics of the day. Family time and spending time with loved ones is mandatory too.

15. Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?

Thank you for supporting underground metal music! We will get through this and don’t let the “powers that be” bring you down! Hails!

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