Beltaine is one of the most important Celtic festivals held on 1st May to welcome the summer season. It is also a Czech metal band from Pilsen who released the only album “Bohemian Winter” fourteen years ago. A year later a three-song DVD “Lone Video” came out. Prior to these records there was a demo tape “First Scream of Bohemian Winter” from 1998. The band revived earlier this year after a long hiatus and I spoke about their plans with the vocalist Vasek Kudlic.
Vasek, as I mentioned above, Beltaine are back. First let’s go back to the beginning. How did Beltaine form, who was in the band and what music did you want to play?
Back in 1995 I was considering to form a band which would be musically close to doom metal and where I could bring in my interest in paganism. I contacted my friends Honza Strunc (bass) and Karel Suchy (drums) and on New Year’s Eve 1995/96 we drank to our new as yet nameless band. Shortly after that Pepan Kaspar (guitar) joined the band and Beltaine could start to write first songs. A few months later Karel had to leave to serve in the army and was replaced by Jirka Kaspar. Not long before our first gig the second guitarist Ondra “Cmelak” Franek joined us and we were complete. This lineup lasted for several years and also recorded the first demo tape.
What is the reason you don’t sing in Czech?
To sing in English feels quite natural to me. I have always listened mainly to foreign music. When I was a kid, I liked The Beatles and similar bands and later foreign hard rock and metal. Even now I don’t have too many Czech CDs. English in rock music sounds to me more flexible and better for phrasing. So English lyrics were the only option for Beltaine.
Your excellent debut album “Bohemian Winter” consists of songs from the original demo tape. How do these two records differ from each other?
The original songs were completely rearranged, newly recorded and a new song “Lone” was added. We also had two new members – Jaromir Vlach (bass) and Pavel Cirnfus (drums). At that time the band was stronger and more advanced compared to the early years. The resulting record was a big step forward and I think the positive reception the debut album met after its release only proved it.
And now maybe a tough question. The band’s future was promising; the “Lone” video was and still is an unbelievable hit; yet something happened, something completely unexpected; Beltaine called it quits. Why?
It was a combination of several factors. First problems occured in 2005 when Pavel Cirnfus left and we also parted ways with Cmelak. To find an adequate replacement, especially the drummer, was pretty hard and it was holding us back for quite a long time. New lineup with Lubos Samek (drums) and Honza Tölg (guitar) was introduced during 2008; we played a few gigs, but shortly after that my health issues started and made it impossible for me to function in the band. This resulted in another unplanned hiatus. My bandmates gradually followed other music projects and the band in fact ceased to exist though we’ve never officially called it quits. Deep inside I have always hoped that there would be a time when we come back again… but years went by.
You had quite a long break. Did you write any music during that period?
I stopped writing completely. From time to time I just wrote down some lyrics or inspiration, but this happened only occasionally. I was much busier with sound engineering and producing. And when I spared some time and energy, I built my own home studio, which now also serves as a rehearsal space for Beltaine.
What woke Beltaine up? What was the imaginary trigger?
I’ve been thinking about reviving the band for a long time, but the ultimate trigger was probably this year’s 20th anniversary. I said, “now or never,” and started to contact the other bandmates.
You were once guest on my radio programme, where you introduced the band. Now I’m glad that I can ask you again to introduce Beltaine in 2016.
Things finally developed in such a way that I can in fact introduce the same “Bohemian Winter” lineup, i.e. Vasek Kudlic (vocals, keys), Pepan Kaspar (guitars), Jaromir Vlach (bass) and Pavel Cirnfus (drums). For now we don’t plan to hire a second guitarist as we’re mainly focused on recording.
The band is currently preparing a new EP. What can we expect? Will it be again doom metal with pagan roots, or should we prepare for a big change?
Songs on this EP as well as on the next full-length will be a natural follow-up to “Bohemian Winter”. We’ll keep the pagan melodic elements and doom metal roots, but the music will be a little more technical and the guitars more layered.
As far as I know, these songs were prepared some years ago and then were put to rest unfinished. Will you release the original or re-recorded versions?
In 2008 we already demoed seven or eight songs and started to finalize three of them, but in the end everything was put to rest for much longer than anyone could have imagined. Luckily in our digital age it’s no problem to continue right where we stopped. After a thorough listening to the original tracks, we decided to use complete drum tracks as well as many guitar tracks and bass lines, but to create a brand new sound which would reflect the current equipment we use. All the other tracks will be newly recorded and thus the final outcome should be an amalgamation of the original song structures and the new sound.
My old friend, a graphic designer Karel Travnicek, is also close to Beltaine. Will you contact him regarding web design and cover art for the new EP?
Yes, we’re already working on the design. Karel has always been the sixth Beltaine member. We’ve been friends for many years and I cannot imagine not to cooperate with him.
You were dealing with Czech mythology and paganism in your lyrics which distinguished you rather clearly from the related bands. Will it be the same case now? Where do you get inspiration?
I think the style of writing will be similar. The lyrics will stay very personal, intertwined with pagan symbolism that is very close to me. Inspiration comes from my own experience. Of course, it is influenced by a wide range of incentives from my surroundings, literature or film.
Will there be any live shows, or just studio work first and then you’ll see what happens? I believe many fans would like to see you on stage again.
At this moment there are no plans for live shows. However, we would like to hit the stage again in the future. Obviously, we miss it a lot, but considering we are now starting up again from almost nothing and the time we have is limited; we set our priorities which we want to keep and then progress gradually. Now the recording is the first and most important step, then the release and all the stuff related to it.
I have one important question at the end – what progress has been made so far?
We are currently finalizing our recording studio and working on the EP. At the same time a new web design is being prepared and we also communicate via social networks.
What will be your message to our readers?
First of all thank you for the chat. I wish the readers have a lot of good music and interesting articles. You can follow Beltaine on our website, Facebook, Twitter or Bandcamp profiles where we add all news from the camp of our pagan clan :-).
Rockpalace link (Czech version only)