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Druun carry on something of the spirit of early Latvian Death/Doom band Grindmaster Dead (who went on to become Skyforger). Comrade Aleks talks with vocalist Erwin about all that and more.

Interview with Druun.
"Latvia was never known for Doom bands, apart from Frailty. Though there was a Death/Doom band called Grindmaster Dead, back in 1991, just after the Iron Curtain fell. The band lasted for about four years, using some Folk elements in their songs, before changing name to Skyforger and going on to become a well known Pagan/Folk Black outfit.

It isn't correct to say that Riga-based Druun are direct heirs of Grindmaster Dead, but they do preach Death/Doom with a healthy portion of Folk elements and lyrics written in Latvian. Besides that, Grindmaster Dead's original drummer Imants Vovers performs with Druun, so there's reason to be curious already...

Druun have experience of performing grim and heavy stuff: guitarist Jānis Krivāns (aka Kriwix) played in some local black metal bands, while vocalist Erwin Franz spent some time in Heaven Grey and is still with Catalepsia, both amongst the oldest Latvian Gothic Doom bands. For the rest of the band - Jurģis Ozols (guitars) and Mārtiņš Straupenieks (bass) - Druun seems to be a debut, but the quality of first album 'Veļu Laiks' is remarkable. I believe this band won't leave you disappointed, especially since there aren't many of that kind since Dissolving Of Prodigy disbanded. Erwin will help us to tell Druun's story tonight."

Druun vocalist Erwin Franz, talking to Aleks today.

Hi Erwin! How are you in these turbulent times? What's the band's status nowadays?

Hi Aleksey! Thanks, I am doing fine considering the whole shitstorm going on all over the world. The band has been discussing some ideas of doing a livestream of us playing but since the restrictions have been becoming stricter and stricter it's hard to plan anything that involves gathering of more than 2 persons. We will see how the situation evolves and maybe work on some new music remotely in the meantime.

Really? Gathering of more than two persons is already prohibited? Our situation in Saint Petersburg ain't that bad, I'm starting to feel myself in a spa resort…! Do you think all these restrictions are necessary?

I don't think they are necessary for me and people I hang out with because we are aware of what we are doing and what we should avoid but most or let's say a big part of people are retarded and they definitely need these restrictions and some of these people would deserve even more limitations.

Druun was founded just two years ago, but you prepared songs for your first album 'Veļu Laiks' pretty fast. Did you have the album's concept in your mind from a start?

Not specifically. I just realized that the songs need to be in Latvian and the topics should include our cultural heritage at some point since the music style was set as folk doom metal.

Can you say what local scene tends towards using Latvian lyrics and folk motives in general?

As far as I know, Jānis just wanted to continue the legacy of the local pioneers Grindmaster Dead because no one is playing in this style (folk doom metal) in Baltics now. Using Latvian lyrics just seemed natural to me. We have our own cultural identity, our own language and I don't see a reason why we shouldn't do it in Latvian since folk music is about one's roots.

You and Imants seem to have more experience in writing and performing Doom-related music than other Druun members. Who's the main songwriter in the band? Or do you prefer team work?

The music itself is written by the main guy behind all this – Jānis Krivāns. He was involved in several black metal projects before but he has been having some ideas and plans to do a folk doom project for some years already.

Druun - 'Veļu Laiks' (2019):

So Druun isn't a common effort? Do you and other members have an opportunity to offer your ideas to Jānis?

I think that others just like the stuff he makes and they enjoy playing the parts he composes. We may add some arrangement ideas to the music but otherwise, it's completely fine. I personally am ok with doing lyrics only since I do composing and arranging for Catalepsia already. Druun is a different kind of project and I enjoy it.

By the way, how did he gather the whole lineup? How did you get into Druun?

We know each other from the local scene since we have been sharing stages playing in other bands before, so Jānis just gathered the guys who were available and willing to play at that moment. Before I joined Druun I wasn't really looking for side projects but one evening Jānis just messaged me asking, if I can do some low growls. I was curious, so I came to a rehearsal and saw the great pack he got together, tried to vocalize and I was in.

The core of your songs is classic Death/Doom metal, which bands formed the Druun's sound?

As far as I know Jānis is not a big fan of doom metal but he loves the old school stuff a lot and by that I mean the very first albums of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema. He also loves what Grindmaster Dead were doing and of course that was the main thing that set the tone – no one was continuing their legacy, so he decided to overtake it after all this time.

Guitarist Jurģis Ozols.

Erwin, you played in one of the oldest local Gothic Doom bands, Heaven Grey, and you're one of the founding members of Catalepsia that performs in a similar style. Did you use some ideas for Druun's songs from sketches you may have had for these bands?

I haven't been getting involved in writing Druun's music and I believe that maybe it should stay this way that I write lyrics only since it has been like this from the start. Lyrics-wise I am much more figurative and poetic when writing Druun's lyrics than I do with Catalepsia. I am trying to take other steps with Druun and hopefully, I am managing.

There's a Grindmaster Dead cover on 'Veļu Laiks', were they popular in Latvia? Or are they known only because of Skyforger?

From my perspective, Grindmaster Dead was the origin of Skyforger, so they kinda were the same band who just changed their name and sound at some point. As far as I know, they were big for the local underground scene when they started out and their name has been written in the history of Latvian and Baltic metal music for sure.

I bet you're lucky that you have Imants in the band. What's his role in the band besides drumming?

We are lucky for sure. He is one of the forefathers of Baltic folk metal and he definitely feels like a fish in water when performing this style, especially doom metal. His oldschool drumming brings back some ghosts of the past that need to be shown to the world and of course, he is the guy who gathers the rent money for the rehearsal place :D

One feature of Druun is a good range of folk instruments you use in songs. How did you find musicians who record them for you? Well, besides Skyforger's Pēteris Kvetkovskis, it's clear how you got him.

Well, we are a small and friendly community of musicians here. Folk and metal musicians hang out together in the same bars, gigs and festivals quite often, therefore it wasn't a problem to get them involved.

Where did you record 'Veļu Laiks'? I see that drums were done at Sound Division Studio, how did you record other instruments? Also what's Riga's recording studio capacity? Do you have a choice?

Guitars and bass were done at our homes and folk instruments and vocals were done at our rehearsal place. Nowadays, there is a lot of options and as long as you have the equipment, you can even turn your barn in a little studio. Of course, it depends on the production - there are many great "bedroom" albums but quite many projects and ideas require more room and more resources. In our case, we managed to use an actual studio for drums only. We have several great studios in Riga and other places in Latvia and when the time comes, we might consider using them as well.

How did you orchestrate the work of the guest musicians at the studio?

Jānis prepared the parts and just made the guys and the lady do it. He is good at organizing things. Believe me, you don't want to make that old bastard grumpy. But to be serious, he wrote the parts for them all except for Pēteris. They just jammed a little bit and recorded it. I think it turned out pretty well.

The lyrics are in Latvian, and it's said that those texts are based on Baltic folklore. Which topics do you raise in 'Veļu Laiks'?

I used different figurative elements as well as creature names from the folklore to describe a struggle of an individual. It's just about issues and challenges we all face during our lives and I just tried to describe them from the worldview of our forefathers. By the way, I am working on the English translation of the lyrics to let the rest of the world have a better insight into the story. Hopefully, I will manage to publish it soon.

That's a good idea! Do you aim to reach out to new listeners abroad with this album? How serious you are considering Druun's promotion?

I believe that we will just go with the flow and let the music speak. So far, it has been going well. We might do some touring when the plague goes away and write more music. Right now no one really knows how things will evolve but I don't think that anything will ever stop us from doing what we love. We might take it easier, slower but still do it no matter what.

Druun - 'Under The Willow Tree' (Live, 2019):

I see the album was released only as a digital download - have you released it on CD yet? And don't you have a label that could help you with that?

Right now it's also available on a CD and cassette. The release of the CDs was arranged by the local label Metalkalve and we are very grateful for that. The cassettes were done by ourselves and it's a very limited edition.

Do you have any ideas how to spread physical copies during quarantine?

Bandcamp and post office and of course, if the guy is from Riga, we arrange meetings.

I saw you got Latvian Metal Music awards in 2019: did that grant you wider exposure in Latvia and abroad?

It was a great honor to receive the awards as well as be aware of the respect and support that comes from the local metal community. We had plans to play more gigs here in Latvia and to go abroad for the first time but unfortunately the plague that came suddenly made us take a little break from it. Let's see how it goes.

Drummer, originally with Grindmaster Dead, Imants Vovers.

How often did you play in 2019? And did your live shows include all the folk instruments you used in the album?

We played 3 shows in 2019 and unfortunately we were not able to involve the live musicians playing folk instruments but we are looking forward to making it happen. I hope we will manage some day or at least for a few gigs.

Erwin, as far as the situation with gigs is totally unpredictable, let's complete our interview with a question about Druun's plans for a second album? How do you see the prospects?

I don't know, if I should tell what Jānis is planning but I personally am looking towards new concepts and continue writing lyrics in Latvian. We might experiment with the sound a little but not too much. I just think that we should go with the flow and try to not make shitpies. Let's see how it goes!

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Druun bandpage.

Interviewed on 2020-04-21 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov`.
Aesthetic Death
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