Interview: Claymorean

If there is a new album in the house of Claymorean soon, it is obvious that we let our Serbian friends have their say in detail. However, I spoke with Vladimir Garčević not only about the new release By This Sword We Rule: A Decade of Steel, but about many other topics. This time, we dived deep into the history of electric guitar music.

Claymorean on Bandcamp.

André: Hi Vlad, I’m glad you’re finding time for us again. Have you had a pleasant start to the year 2023?

Vladimir: Hi, André! Thank you for inviting me once again and for supporting Claymorean. This year started pretty well, I must say, though I tend to be a pessimist, haha. It’s going too good so far. We’re preparing for our debut performance at this year’s Up The Hammers festival in Athens (May 18th), but we’re negotiating with some other European organizers. For now I can’t say more, hehe. 

[André: In the meantime we know that Claymorean will participate at Keep it True Rising 3 in Würzburg]

André: Let’s take a look back at 2022: Which albums released in the past year did you like best?

Vladimir: Oh, man, there were lots of great releases in 2022. Hard to mention just a couple of them without making an injustice to so many others. But if I were at sword point… Let’s start with the obvious ones. Ghost‘s Impera was a tremendous album, maybe too perfect in a way. I do love it, but at the same time I appreciate Prequelle and Melioramore because of their “imperfections”. Hällas‘ Isle of Wisdom was even better in the long run. Deeply emotional album that went on another level. Maybe this record was my favourite of 2022, but this isn’t cemented in concrete, haha. Mirror‘s The Day Bastard Leaders Die and Oathbringer‘s Tales of Glory were my favourite classic heavy metal releases. Simply superb in every way. Achelous and Fer de Lance released the best epic metal records in 2022. Still having goosebumps listening to these two. Of course, Satan made an amazing job with Earth Infernal (another perfect album with amazing and completely natural sound). TrialSumerlandsSonjaWolfSpellRiot CityPhantom SpellLuziferEvil Invaders – all released incredible albums. Sheer poetry. But, eventually Iron Kingdom‘s The Blood of Creation got on the top of my favourite albums from last year. It’s simply heavy metal I like and I wish I could write such great songs like these guys. 

André: Let’s move on to Claymorean: You are celebrating your tenth anniversary this year with the release of the compilation By This Sword We Rule. I’ve already had the chance to read through your liner notes and I’m very enthusiastic – you’ve put a lot of effort into that. Was it fun to look back and reminisce?

Vladimir: Well, to be completely honest, the idea of doing an anniversary album came from our label Stormspell Records (Mr. Stormy himself). The fact is that we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary in June 2024, but the band as we know it today started to take shape in early 2013, so this was the perfect time to release something like this. We didn’t want to have the regular “best of” compilation as we don’t think we have enough “hit songs” for it, haha. So we made something special. We combined freshly recorded songs from Claymore days with some singles (featuring guest musicians), added some rare demo recordings and a few live tracks. Boris Šurlan mastered every track and recorded and mixed all the new songs on this album. It’s important to know that none of these 15 songs have been previously released on any physical media, so in a way this can be considered not only as a compilation, but as some sort of a special studio album. And we did have lots of fun recording it and putting it together. We would have included much more, but on the regular CD, you can’t fit more than 80 minutes of material. 

André: Let’s say I want to get someone excited about Claymorean: Which song you find on this compilation should I play to that person?

Vladimir: Interesting question… Hmmm… Let’s say “Arioch“, the song that’s opening the new album. It’s very dynamic. It has fast and slow moments, but it’s musically rather dark and epic. It’s perfect as a show and an album opener, so it just might be perfect for a new Claymorean fan or someone who tends to become one, haha. 

André: Since we have already talked to each other many times, it doesn’t make much sense at this point to review the history of Claymorean again – besides, you can read a lot in the booklet. Instead, I would like to look back at your musical roots with you today. Let’s go way back into the past: I know that you are a big Beatles fan. Which Fab Four album do you like the most?

Vladimir: Ooh, yes! I’m a huge fan of music and The Beatles are no exception. Definitely in my top 3 favourite bands ever. I love everything they recorded, but if I had to choose my favorite albums… Dude… tough one… OK, let’s say Rubber SoulAbbey RoadRevolver and Magical Mystery Tour, in that order. Damn, Sgt. PepperWhite albumLet It Be… Even the old classic ones. Masterpieces, all of them. 

André: Suppose you had to make a Beatles sampler: Which 10 songs do you think would have to be on it? I know this is a mean question…

Vladimir: It’s one of the meanest questions ever, haha. Let me try… “A Day in the Life“, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps“, “Savoy Truffle“, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun“, “Paperback Writer“, “Eleanor Rigby“, “Something“, “In My Life“, “Across the Universe“, “Ticket to Ride“. Damn, so many great ones left behind. Ask me this question tomorrow, it would probably have 5 different songs, haha. And the day after and so on. 

André: Are you a big fan of the 60s sound in general? Which albums released in this decade, which was so important for rock, do you listen to regularly? Let’s leave the Beatles out of it…

Vladimir: Apart from The Beatles, the 60‘s were where everything started. Although rock‘n‘roll was born a decade before, the British Invasion gave a meaning to the simplicity and innocence this music had. The Rolling StonesThe WhoPink FloydThe KinksThe Moody BluesProcol HarumCreamKing CrimsonJethro Tull, etc truly developed the American foundation and took it further. But then we also had The DoorsJimiJanisCCRDylanand many, many others that very soon came as an American answer to these British bands. And it went back and forth which sparked a whole new space for more rock subgenres that followed. 

André: Even though Pink Floyd is my all-time favourite band, I say: the greatest song from the 60s is by The Rolling Stones: “Gimme Shelter“. I suppose this is where you disagree with me….

Vladimir: I was never huge on Stones, though I acknowledge their greatness and like more than a few songs and albums. My favorite is Exile on Main Street. However, my favorite 60’s songs probably don’t include Stones or Floyd, even though I think “Gimme Shelter“ is awesome. I say “Gimme Shelton“ haha. 

André: Let’s jump to the 70s: For me, this decade is the greatest that rock music has to offer. Which releases from this decade do you particularly appreciate?

Vladimir: Oh the 70’s… Man… yeah, this might be the most adventurous decade when it comes to rock music. Not necessarily my favourite (that would be the 80’s), but close to the very top. This is where prog rock got huge. And once again the British scene excels in it. Jethro TullGenesisKing CrimsonYesELPVDGGGentle GiantCamel and many more took the scene in a blitzkrieg. North America had a terrific answer in RushKansasStyx,Boston… But hard rock and punk became the real stars of the decade. SabbathZeppelinPurpleRainbowKissFreeUriah HeepScorpionsAC/DCJudas Priest, all these bands created my favourite genre of music – heavy metal. So yeah, 70’s rule! If I must choose my 10 favorites these would be Kiss – AliveRush – A Farewell to KingsJethro Tull – Songs from the WoodsBlack Sabbath – Master of RealityRainbow – RisingDeep Purple – Machine HeadLed Zeppelin – Physical GraffitiKansas – MasqueJudas Priest – Stained Class and Scorpions – Taken by Force

André: Is there a song from the 70s that you would like to cover with Claymorean?

Vladimir: Yes, in fact many… If I could, I would make an entire album consisting of 70’s and 80’s cover songs, haha. It would be a double album for sure. Too many songs to mention here… 

André: I’d like to put forward the following thesis: Rock albums never sounded better than in the 70s. Do you agree?

Vladimir: I agree to some extent. I recently talked to my friend and producer Boris about the interview Steven Wilson did with Rick Beato. In this interview, Steven practically said that 60’s, 70’s and 80’s records sound better because musicians were technologically disadvantaged compared to what we have today. They needed to record music the best way they could. They paid much attention to the details and overall recording process. Even musicians needed to be better in a way, because you didn’t have digital recording, so you had to record the entire song in one take on a magnetic tape. I had the chance to record this way in the 90’s, we had to learn music by ear, so I believe there’s a lot of truth to this thesis of yours. There’s still hope though. You can record and produce music like that even today. Of course, it takes time, money and skills. For what it’s worth, we recorded our last album the old school way (apart from the magnetic tape). On this new release the first four newly recorded songs were also recorded this way. Only microphones and tube amps. No samples, no triggers, no additional studio tricks or any kind of augmentation on those songs. 

André: What was it like in Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s? Which bands inspired by The Beatles, the Stones or Deep Purple were formed there? Do you have any insider tips for readers who are not familiar with music history on the Balkans?

Vladimir: Well, Yugoslavia had a great rock scene from the mid 60’s to the late 80’s and weren’t behind the world trends in any way. Contrary to most East European countries, Yugoslavia wasn’t under Soviet rule. We were more inclined toward Western Europe and the USA, so our musical scene wasn’t much different (apart from lingual characteristics). I will recommend here some bands that I personally liked, even though I’m not a huge fan of ex-YU rock music. SmakYU GrupaKorni GrupaIndexiAtomsko SkloništeTimeAzraPop Mašina are just some of the excellent bands from the 70’s that you should check out. In the 70’s and 80’s we also had some hard rock (almost heavy metal) bands that had potential for greatness, like Divlje JagodeKerberGeneracija 5PomorančaGordiRok Mašina etc. 

André: Last question: Finally, let’s turn our attention to the future. Which album are you most looking forward to releasing in 2023?

Vladimir: When it comes to this year, I honestly have no clue what releases will come out, since I’ve been in the studio for the past several months and haven’t read too much news. If you have some tips to share with me, you would be most welcome. I know I gave up on the new King Diamond album, as well as on the new Wintersun, haha. 

André: Vlad, thank you for the interview – I wish you and your band all the best for the still young year 2023! And be sure to listen to the new albums from Gatekeeper, Megaton Sword and Nine Altars!

Vladimir: Thank you so very much for this great interview and for these harder than steel questions, haha. I enjoyed it very much. Many regards to your readers and to your fantastic team. Hope to see you this year somewhere at a festival or a concert. Cheers from Lazarevac! 

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