keltikon, The Black Boar
keltikon, The Black Boar
My Favorite Swiss Celtic rock group Keltikon have a new exciting album out, The Black Boar, done and dusted at the start of 2020, this marks the band’s second full album so with all this in mind I decided to contact the lead singer, Olaf, to see how things are going for the band during the Corona plandemic and get the lowdown on the new album.
(me) The good news and the bad news (Corona)
(Olaf) Good news: a new album out from April:
“The Black Boar”
Well done, a mixed bag of Irish/celtic trad songs, English and German folk/ an Italian protest song, rocky numbers, drinking songs……an old favourite making a reappearance, “The Diving Dutchman” from the first album is back…….and “Heal My Shakra”, quite a eclectic album!
… yes, Heal My Shakra was one take of the whole band, never rehearsed before and a session just like in the seventies, interesting there wasn’t any weed around, somehow — lol. The Diving Dutchman is still one of our favorites and live a great battleship, so we decided to record it again.
Rocky road to Dublin, done in one take?
All songs on the album were done in one take but not necessarily the first one
At least drums, bass and rhythm guitar together and in some cases like ‚Rocky road to Dublin‘. We never played it live until today, fiddle and lead guitar were recorded afterwards.
“A local boozer”……………Bit of a Shane Macgowan sound there?
Interesting question. The intention of John O’Donnell Cotter was to write Pogues alike music for his poem, I had the honor to get the chance. Though he expected it become fast, I felt a walz and we discussed if a song needs to be fast to be Pogues-alike….
New violinist……Mélodie Pican?
Yes! We lucky bastards were contacted by Mélodie Pican, who joined the band summer and finished the recording — she’s on most songs of the album. In the beginning of the sessions we had to learn that it all became too complicated for our former violinist Sally Welti to coordinate it with here private life and she needed more than just a rest from playing for two months or so. My father died and I had to spend 10 weeks of the year abroad Switzerland and there wasn’t much up, except a supporting gig with The Rumjacks. So Mélodie called me and joined us for that concert quite spontaneously for the very first concert at Musikburg Aarburg- no overdubs, we could already hear there how good she fits.
I must say you have assembled a great set of songs. One I have to ask is the song “We Have Been (and we are still here)”, it’s like a folk ska song, my favourite song of the album, who is doing the guitar on it, and the violin is great too!?
The violin melody was played by Sally. The melody comes originally from the the very first fiddle player of Keltikon, Natalie Koula — she played 3 or 4 concerts with us in 2012. Every soloist, on fiddle or accordion adapted it as it gives it quite an oriental or gypsy flavour. All guitars, also this solo were played by the same bum — me.
Was it a long process, writing and compiling the songs?
Actually not, 5 of em were really new and needed a bit more work, the rest has been played live for years before.
What comes first in the process, the idea, the story, the tunes, do you hear the song in your head or…….write a tune around the words……
I’d say the best that can happen is if some refrain/hook line and words come in your mind the same time and you can develop from there. It’s much better than to have a nice tune and search for words, or the opposite. A good song comes into your brain suddenly and stays. If you haven’t forgotten it when your back home you know it could be ok :-
What does this album say?
FolkPunkRock’s not dead!
The title of the album, the Black Boar?
A little gloss/comedy on Tryon, also known as Twrch Trwyth a pagan creature that was fought by King Arthur in Celtic mythology… I think King Arthur was a jerk and it wasn’t fair, how the boar was treated.
Well produced album: Everything is always so well produced, from the sound quality of the album, the video and the Album case. You must have a great team working behind the scenes?
It’s been produced and mixed at Bau 2 Studios in Winterthur by Roger Baltensperger, he’s a great engineer and we had a great inspiring mood. Mastering has been done by „the guru“ Dan Suter (Echochamber) Zürich. The Cover was designed by me.
The Black Boar Video tie in, what was that like with the lockdown going on?
We already recorded the video in beginning of December and decided since a long time to release all in May…
So how has the Virus and the lockdown affected you and the band?
Many concerts dropped or postponed to next year, inclusive our Ireland Tour in summer. We hope we can play the very first regular concert in September again.
Promotion of the album? Near impossible?
We’re still an independent band and I didn’t have too big expectations in sales, especially in those times. I’m very surprised about fast growing of our community on Spotify, as we’re newbees there. Of course it’s promoted a bit… it would be nicer to sell CDs — download cards at concerts as we’re a live band.
(I know ye guys do a lot of touring………….)
Cancelled gigs? You had 5 gigs at legendary music pubs in Ireland in 2019, the return this year for 2020 was cancelled
(what was Ireland like, did it live up to your expectations?)
It was fantastic to play in Ireland and we never ever expected such a warm welcome and great feedback.
Personal Level: Living in Switzerland during this period of lockdown and the like?
First of all a little shock. We just finished our last concerts in the Canton of Bern when the first restrictions for concerts where out and we knew Saint Patrick’s Day Party was gone… glad normality is back more and more…
It became quite a thriller to hold the release date, as copyright associations and other partners became really slow due to the lockdown and changes because of home office. Provisionally the album is available online only at the moment. Physical CDs will be distributed in the next 4 weeks.
Positives? (band closer together? Fans rally around? More time to be creative?)
The positive maybe, if there is, will be that everyone at concerts, from the barkeepers over the audience to the drummer will enjoy concerts more than ever
When do you think you can gig again? Is there a definite timeline for the future?
We hope very much to play in at Celtic Festival Avenches on 29 August, also it looks like we play in Lenzerheide and Altstätten/SG in September.. But that being said; many concerts are postponed to next year, such as Openair Bischoffszell or Mary From Dungloe Festival and other festivals… the first show we should play is actually our CD release party. We expect it to happen somewhere in the late autumn.
Ok Olaf, thanks for that news on the album and the current situation. I hope you dont mind me just going over some old questions for any new fans of the band, etc. Cheers
Keltikon, What is the origin of the name of the band?
Well, it was founded in Pfäffikon ZH, It should be celtic and celtic in ancient greek means‚ keltikon‘.
How did ye guys all meet? How long have you all known each other?
Originally the band was formed by me and a pipes player. Our Drummer Chrigel is in the band since 2015, Dave on the bass since 2016.
When did the band form?
Keltikon was founded in March 2012
The Music: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How do you define the band. Celtic rock, punk rock, trad rock?
Names are smoke and mirrors
Let’s call it Celtic Punk Rock to keep it simple.
What is it about Celtic music that drew you to it?
The entry ticket were definitely The Pogues and actually they should stay our idols in any way; also because of their versatility which is just enormous.
Creative Process: Who writes the songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? (Drinking!) Do you think these topics will change over time?
The topics of my songs are quite different, not that much about drinking… from stock exchange managers as Kings in medieval times, TV esoteric shit, of part of an old tale about a mystic dog… the only song where beer is mentioned… and the last song ‚Local Boozer is written by John O’Donnell Cotter, not by me
What is the creative process like? Do you guys just tough it out in the studio, or do you go for a few beers, how do you trash out the tunes and how do you know if you got it right?
Mostly a song is quite prepared before I present it to the band — sometimes I even record a whole demo-track including drums to show how I mean it… then we work on it, talk about certain details bout drums and bass grooves and after 3 or 4 sessions it is done and sounds good — or the song was shit.
How do ye guys get in the zone, get into the right frame of mind for writing songs/making songs?
I personally still don’t know how it exactly works. Feels like luck to me to get an idea somehow. Sometimes it appears even if you’re really in a hurry and don’t even have time for it at the moment. Or you can go to holiday, open a bottle of wine, or drink whiskey… and nothing happens…
What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
Haha, that’s a very long time ago, we rehearsed nearly every week… in the last years rehearsals have become less, because we played the songs so many times together… only for new songs actually we needed rehearsals
The Gigs/Touring:You have been on the same stage as Uncle bard, The Rumjacks, and FIDDLER’S GREEN,), anyone else that you would like to collaborate with?
Flogging Molly would be great…
Your fans? Groupies (females!)
Haha, no statements without a lawyer
Your gigs are very energetic?
Yes, but the fat creme of Irish Coffee will compensate the loss of calories.
The friendship has survived so long, even on the road?
Well, everybody’s got quirks and being in a band touring like that is can be demanding. But after many years you know and trust each other
……you can sense it on the stage ye guys are close, brotherhood……..
For sure musically
The touring? Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues?
Keltikon played exactly 171 concerts since the foundation. I’d say there were a lot of ‚favourite places‘. As the big ones we could name our supporting gigs at Z7 or Headliner at Irish Open Air Toggenburg in front of thousands… but I personally will never want to miss the pubs and there is nothing that can replace that atmosphere. I can frankly say that most organisers in Switzerland were nice and generous. The worst concert was a pub, back in 2013 in Lucerne, the owner was as high as a steeper on white wine, ex-musician (dixieland) and told us what we’re allowed to play and what not… — especially „psychedelic“ songs, how he called it, shouldn’t be played, quite an interesting experience
Have you ever dealt with performance anxiety?
Sometimes a little bit, never too much.
What is ur favourite song to perform? The bands favourite? yo
Maybe ‚Taliesin’s Poem‘, ‚The Diving Dutchman‘ and ‚Kenny McDonald’s Jig“
Which songs do you perform most frequently? A most requested song?
Maybe still ‚Dirty Old Town‘ or ‚The Irish Rover‘ — LOL
Evolution: You have had a previous album, how has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
This is our second album. The first one was in 2014 and before was a Demo EP with a couple of songs. Think the music has changed me a bit, but still I feel that I’m a kind of punk/rock bastard
The recording studio and equipment, over time has that improved? Rookie mistakes?
For our first album we recorded in an old bunker, simply on a portable tascam recorder with max. 8 tracks/mics at once (drums) loaded it on a pc. The tracks were mixed and mastered by a professional sound engineer. This time we recorded in a studio, with a good engineer supporting us.
What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? Why?
The favorite is for sure playing live. The least part? Well, sometimes booking or promotional duties.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
The biggest challenge might be if something technical breaks, your sound is gone and you keep a good mood playing air guitar… or if the audience is not the right one, you’re at a wrong place where your music is just not asked or you feel just consumed… luckily that happened not often… keep a stiff upper lip, don’t let anything show, keep the mood and fun between us
What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands? What is the best advice you have been given?
Do your own thing. Don’t listen to every advice because if you’d listen to all of them you’d just do nothing… don’t forget that communication and contacts will always be a big part of your success.
The rest: When you are not touring or preparing songs with the band, what is your down time?
Would say the last months have been a down time. We take it easy at the moment. Album is out, we don’t have too big expectations for this year. Let’s see how many gigs will be possible and where, one is confirmed so far…
What do your friends outside the band think or your relatives/parents?
In my personal area only a few people are really interested in my subjects, mostly it’s people from outside. We’ve never been a „a lot of friends, partners, brothers and sisters, football club or what ever coming“-band. Would say the interest of my relatives is quite low — lol
What’s next for you?
Wait and see what’s next.
Where can people buy the new album (all the usual platforms)?
It’s available on more the 260 download and streaming platforms and will be available as physical CD in about 4 weeks.
Follow the band on social media?
Thanks Olaf, and I hope to see you once again, hopefully in 2020 and not too long away.