Interview with Atorc
by Sheri Bicheno
After witnessing Atorc for the first time at Warhorns Festival in 2018, I’ve noticed these guy stand out more and more. I have previously reviewed their latest album “Under The Raven Banner”, seen them play across the UK at many Folk and Viking Metal themed events and befriended some of the band through mutual people, so I was more than happy to sit down with the Suffolk based tribe and have a chat!
Atorc are one of the UK’s most well-known underground Folk Metal bands and I was intrigued to know a bit more about their story…
Sheri: Hello guys!
Atorc: Hello Sheri!!!
Sheri: I did a review of “Under The Raven Banner” last year for Ever Metal and loved it, For our readers, tell us a bit about the roots of Atorc and how you decided on the concept of the band?
Battlebeast: Well the roots of Atorc really stem from when I got into folk metal and I thought there’s not really a lot of folk metal bands in the UK. I had contact with Tom Scales and we basically formed Atorc together with our old drummer and violinist and basically from there evolved into what we are today!
Boudikath: We had the line-up changes so everyone brought their own influences.
Battlebeast: Yeah, everyone brought in their own influences with what they’ve listened to over the years. With Andy, there are elements of Power Metal in the band, which is very interesting and with Jack, he added a sense of a much darker, black metal vibe with the rhythms. So, it’s been quite interesting with the mixture of music tastes all around.
Boudikath: And also, some classical backgrounds.
Sheri: That brings me onto the next question actually – your sound is quite entangled in metal, folk – most notably in the Viking and Battle elements, with some pretty big Power vocals. You certainly have your own identity – do you have any influences both musically and historically?
*HELBARD THEN ENTERS THE DOMAIN.*
Helbard: Hellooooooooo! There are different people, different backgrounds, different influences. I’m really like a classic metal kinda guy. I’m more sort of Maiden, Priest, Queensrÿche, Dio – that kind of thing. I have done a lot of different music projects before this as well, covering quite a lot of different backgrounds musically. I mean I was mainly a guitarist before I joined this band on vocals. Before that I was a gigging bass player for quite a while in a band playing like Cheap Trick power pop stuff. That was the first album I ever recorded as a bass player. So, I’ve been all over the map really and I’ve written for everything I’ve been involved with as well. So, it’s really trying to kinda be a well-rounded musician and much like Jack is, Jack has done a lot of different stuff as well. Just trying to bring some sensibility from that, you know…you can always learn skills playing any kind of music that you can take with you and transfer to anything else you do.
Sheri: What about you, Kath, you play the keys and you do backing vocals, have you done anything previous?
Boudikath: To be honest this is the first proper band I’ve been in but I did study Popular Music at University along University bands and that kind of thing but I came in completely new to metal, I mean when I first joined the band, the guys made me watch The Headbangers Guide to Metal, which is a documentary – they were like “she needs to know more!” hahaha. To be honest, I was more into Coldplay, David Gray, 80’s Pop so I was thrown in the deep end as it were haha. But I can say now I quite enjoy listening to things like Iron Maiden, Priest and those kinds of bands.
Sheri: What song or performance do you feel best represents Atorc?
Boudikath: To be honest, we’ve got the one that…
Boudikath: Yeah everyone likes it.
Battlebeast: And its repetitive all the fucking time haha.
Helbard: Is that not actually Shieldwall though?
Blistyg: Is this the one that begins with “T”? Hahaha.
Helbard: What THE Shieldwall? Hahaha.
Blistyg: We play it at every gig…it’s our Smoke on The Water I think haha. I do still enjoy playing it, sometimes haha.
Boudikath: I do enjoy playing it, it’s just very much, that every time we HAVE to play it.
Blistyg: Watching the crowd while we play it…
Helbard: I think by the time we play that song in a set, we’ve already been going for 30 or 40 minutes and everyone’s on board at that point.
Battlebeast: To be honest, I just wrote a basic folk metal song about drinking and I thought “this isn’t gonna catch on” like it’s just gonna be a throw away song…but everyone loves it.
Blistyg: This is like our Rum song.
Sheri: It’s probably the Mead Hall for me hahaha
Helbard: That’s another drinking song! Haha.
Battlebeast: Fun fact – I’m writing another drinking song for the next album.
Sheri: Oh, you are!? Well I was going to ask you about that anyway! From your first release, which was – EP “Pure Folking Metal”, how do you feel you have developed since then? You’ve had a line-up change since then and have found your fit – take us through the development.
Battlebeast: I think we have. With the first line up we had, it was OK, I wasn’t really happy with how things were going. But when the former singer and violinist drop out, Andy and Kath came in, which I thought was the perfect fit with everything that we had been doing so far – with Andy’s vocals and Kath’s keyboards.
Blistyg: And quite good friends we have become too!
Battlebeast: Yes, we have. Then we had Helen brought in and her Violin skills were amazing for us as well and then when our former drummer left, we brought in Jack and his blend of dark, black metal, y’know, influences of drums – they just perfectly fit.
Blistyg: We’re like the perfect BLT hahaha.
Helbard: I’ll tell you something too, those line-up changes from me and Kath coming into the band to having the line-up we have now, I think that took about maybe two years. We hadn’t changed drummers and taken Helen on board until about the end of 2016.
Boudikath: We joined around the beginning of 2015 then Helen came on board for the Seven Tales when we did the recording and then Jack came in about a year later.
Blistyg: Do you guys remember our first gig with Andy and Kath?
Battlebeast: The Evil Scarecrow gig…
Boudikath: It was Evil Scarecrow, it was amazing. We had only been in the band about a month and a bit!
Battlebeast: Yeah it was! Haha.
Boudikath: Literally, we had been in the band a month and we supported Evil Scarecrow at The Waterfront.
Sheri: So, you were pretty much thrown into the deep end that’s amazing haha!
Boudikath: Yeah haha. We showed up and it was like “Oh by the way guys, your gig next month is at the Waterfront in Norwich.” We were like WHAT?!
Helbard: It wasn’t…Well, It wasn’t really confirmed until about a week before. The promoter was…we had problems trying to get money from him.
Boudikath: I remember the venue being big. In terms of development, we definitely have darker tones to “Under The Raven Banner”. The Seven Tales was fun, but we’ve come a little bit darker since then. I think we might be going down a bit more of a darker route with things to come – keeping some of the fun in there – but in general a bit darker.
Helbard: Another thing is that Seven Tales was pretty much – well the songs were written before Kath and I joined the band.
Boudikath: Yea there were two songs in there I think, that were written after and then we added to some of them.
Helbard: “Under The Raven Banner” is a bit more progressive, it was written sort of mainly by Jack and I did the lyrics and there are a few songs on there that I wrote almost entirely and that is probably a reason why some of them sounds almost completely different to Seven Tales album.
Sheri: It was last April you released Under the Raven Banner and as we’ve just discussed, this album is a lot more raw than “Seven Tales Of Swords And Ale” and you highlight some of the difference in songwriting and the sound. Are there any challenges you faced whilst doing that?
Boudikath: I think it was more Andy’s writing style more than anything. Andy got involved with writing on “Under The Raven Banner” and basically, we come along with a riff, an example is Hammer to Anvil – Andy developed on that. In producing the guitar/violin mix that wasn’t so much written in that first one…
Blistyg: When I’m writing riffs and stuff, I don’t really think much about making a structure so to speak. It’s mainly just riffed and then I rely on everyone else to help fit it all together sort of thing.
Thor: Also, the album is more produced than the EP because we spent more time on it. So, there’s more production involved than on the EP where we kind of didn’t play to a click so there’s more tightness and more cleanness with some spick and spam production with the second one more so than the first.
Helbard: Yeah, the first started on a weekend.
Boudikath: 8 songs in 2 days!!
Boudikath: hahaha. So, I dont think we can complain about how it came out haha.
Helbard: If we had done another two days on it, it might have been great! Hahaha. It might have been a classic you know! Haha.
Sheri: Are you working on anything at the moment? Tilly you mentioned that you’re writing for a new album so are you working on anything else whilst we are waiting on 2020 to do one?
Battlebeast: Yeah, I’ve been writing some lyrics so what I’ve done so far, I’ve sent to Andy. So, he will have a look over and see what he can do with them. I mentioned I’m doing another drinking song – cuz why the hell not. I’ve been also researching a lot of other Viking events, you know, the Norse mythology and everything. Basically, everything I can whilst we’ve been in The Great Plague of 2020. Just plodding along trying to get some new material out or make new material and do the best we can.
Boudikath: It very much works lyrically doesn’t it that you do all the research, Tilly… and that goes to Andy so Andy can create lyrics around it.
Battlebeast: Scales (Tom) and I have been working on some riffs as well and we’re basically going with that. Just trying to make new music during these times.
Boudikath: Scales has also got a new toy that he got over lockdown as well! Someone’s got a pretty seven string, haven’t they??
Blistyg: Kath! Shhhhh! Hahaha.
Helbard: We do have a very few rough demo’s knocking about and we’re kind of maybe considering different ways of doing an album this time. Obviously, it’s easier than ever to make music off your own back so to speak. We might see what we can do to do something as no one knows what is going to happen as we get through this. We might see what we can get done off our own back. So I mean, the facility to record at home, me and Scales also have a recording interface so there’s always stuff you can do. It will be a little bit of a learning curve.
Boudikath: It’s not just a drummer and couple of guitarists, its everything and it makes it difficult.
Sheri: You have quite a big UK following where Viking Folk metal genres are concerned, I’ve seen you play multiple times, the first time I remember was at Warhorns 2018 and I could see loads of faces in the crowd donning your trademark blue warpaint. When you have fans and supporters that turn up to live events taking part in your theatrics, what is that like for you?
All: It’s the best thing ever!
Boudikath: Honestly when you get people coming up to you and they’re like “OMG I’ve seen you so many times, please sign this!”
Battlebeast: Yeah when they want your autograph, it’s just like WTF!
Boudikath: HRH Vikings was the best.
Battlebeast: That was one of our top gigs, best thing ever.
Blistyg: We had a good last year. Even though it was really really good, Vikings just topped it off really.
Boudikath: The last gig we did actually was really good as well. The last gig we did was this year in February, where we did a headline show in York. That was a sold-out show in York.
Boudikath: We want these gigs back. We were meant to do, the gigs we were meant to do Sheri, were the Isle of Wight in July, Power Metal Quest Fest in September…
Battlebeast: And we had other gigs lined up, its just all gone! Just like that. It’s just the waiting now you know – waiting for all this crap to go away.
Boudikath: I mean it will be at least kind of middle of next year, I think…
Sheri: It’s the same here with us at Rabidfest. We are at the end of the year and we are at the stage where we have to hold tight and wait until we know if it’s in the best interests of running the event.
Boudikath: I think the people who held off the longest was Jim Beerman (Beermageddon) and now Badgerfest have also had to sadly postpone.
Sheri: I think we will just have to completely write off 2020, in the case of events.
Blistyg: I think it’s a time where you can learn new skills.
Sheri: Absolutely. We were talking about your writing and your challenges! What are your best memories as a band? I mean you’ve played some pretty cool places and festivals…
Blistyg: Manchester and York are always fun. York is the one that stands out.
Battlebeast: North is always the best to play for me, Manchester and so on… I know Birmingham isn’t technically north but we like playing in Birmingham, Nottingham or Manchester and Sheffield. It just feels better. We just have a larger audience. Whereas if you’re playing local here, you get like… two guys and a dog. Haha!
Boudikath: Down here it’s all Thrash really isn’t it?
Battlebeast: Yeah that’s the thing, it’s either Thrash or Hardcore.
Blistyg: Even though our hometown gig in Bury there were loads of people, there were the most metal heads I’ve ever seen in that place.
Sheri: Each place does seem to have their own majority of audience – y’know. I know that Brighton changes from Extreme Death Metal and now there are a lot more Prog and Hardcore bands around. It’s sometimes harder to get other genres introduced to new places.
Helbard: I just want to say about Manchester – I always feel like we are a little bit cursed when it comes to Manchester because the first time we played there, we overran. I remember having a really hard gig because I didn’t have anything to eat before the gig and had an issue with running out of steam half way through. The second time we played in Manchester, we got heckled because I kept addressing Manchester as Sheffield haha!
Battlebeast: Oh yeah, yeah!!
Helbard: And I’ll tell you why… we were playing Sheffield the next day and that Sheffield gig had been a total nightmare as a plan and everything. So the whole weekend I thought “This Sheffield gig, man, I’m dreading it, it’s gonna be crap.” Like… Sheffield, Sheffield, Sheffield… and I was so pre-occupied with the Sheffield gig that I was dreading that I got on stage in Manchester and I was like “Hello Sheffield!!”
Sheri: OH LORD!
Boudikath: To be fair though, Manchester was a nice crowd in general, I just think everyone was a bit pissed and a bit pissed off that you called it Sheffield haha!
Battlebeast: Third time the charm, Andy.
Helbard: Fun times!
Sheri: Happy days! Hahaha. Viking and Folk metal genres are getting more of a light shone on them these days – in your opinion, do you feel this has been overlooked and why?
Helbard: I think everything comes around doesn’t it?
Boudikath: I think the reach is bigger now.
Battlebeast: The internet has more of a gateway for people to listen to other bands – there’s loads of forums and platforms now.
Blistyg: It’s also to do with how it’s – that theme has now become quite popular you know, with Game of Thrones, Skyrim and so on…
Boudikath: Yeah there’s a lot of branching on gateway kind of stuff that brings people back to this kind of music so…
Sheri: It’s always good to have something new but I wish this all came out earlier or was more accessible to reach as Viking and Folk metal is based on essentially history and mythology, which History teaches us.
Atorc: Absolutely, yeah.
Boudikath: I would like to say as well that I think there aren’t many bands like us in that we have the power metal vocal in the folk element. It’s a lot more than kind of I’d say black metal vocal that goes along with it normally, whereas I don’t know of any other Folk Metal band that has the Power Metal vocals.
Thor: There’s a lot that in the new Ensiferum album though, isn’t there, Tilly?
Battlebeast: Yeah there is but I don’t think – I think they’re trying to catch on to the trend. Because I can see that there’s a lot more other Folk Metal bands doing the Power Metal side of things – not saying we are the cause of that at all!
Boudikath: I’d say though that the Power Metal bands that I’ve seen; it’s always been the female vocal that stood high. Which is what we don’t have. I do the lower vocal and Andy does the higher vocals.
Thor: Which is different to other things.
Sheri: What goes through your minds whilst playing live?
Battlebeast: Nothing…hahaha. When you’re on stage, you’re basically just going for it. You’re just having fun; nothing comes to you.
Sheri: You just live it.
Battlebeast: Absolutely. You just rock out with your…
Boudikath: No Tilly, we don’t do that hahaha.
Sheri: Choose a drinking game to represent Atorc and we will have to play it a festival next year.
Helbard: It’s what I call Drinking The Beer hahaha
Blistyg: We could play Forky Forky.**
Battlebeast: Ahhh Forky Forky!
Blistyg: I wanted to play that at Bloodstock last year, but no one seemed to be playing it.
Helbard: It kind of died off.
Blistyg: Maybe we can do that as a band haha.
(** Forky Forky for those not in the know is a game where the rules are that a metal fork (with four prongs) and a courgette are involved. You must score 1,000 points. The courgette is placed in the middle of a circle of people and the fork is lobbed at the courgette so that it has to stick into the courgette erect to win 1,000 points. Otherwise you can achieve getting 1,000 points if the fork lands in the ground at a more than 45-degree angle. The player that gets the fork erect in the courgette then wins the game and has to take a bite of the courgette.)
Boudikath: Let’s paint the courgette blue!
THUS, ATORCY FORKY WAS BORN!!!
Sheri: That’s a thing now.
Atorc: We will play this at Bloodstock next year haha.
Sheri: Finally, What advise have you got for other people who want to do what you do and be where you are?
Battlebeast: Just don’t give up, if you get knocked down, keep on trying.
Boudikath: Be different.
Helbard: Have an image. I think everyone’s burned out on seeing guys in just black tees and cargo shorts, wearing converse. You know, we are in a good time for bands to be a bit theatrical and try and do something different you know. Put on a show. People want to put on a show.
Dont either be afraid of being ridiculous. If you think it might be a bit ridiculous – most things that people love are things that are a bit ridiculous but done really well.
Sheri: Thank you so much for your time guys, I really appreciate you talking to me.
Atorc: Thank you Sheri, this has been awesome!
Rick Here; With the interview complete Atorc trundled off into the socially distant horizon to search for battles anew! I would like to thank the band and Sheri for a great interview!
To read Sheri’s full review of Atorc’s album “Under The Raven Banner” then hit the following link:
To keep up with everything Atorc related then click the following links:
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Sheri Bicheno and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.