Interview with John and Sophie Fraser of Hand of Kalliach (Scotland)

By Mick Michaels



COSMICK VIEW: Hello, John and Sophie! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.
HoK: No problem, thanks very much for having us!

CV: Do you feel Heavy Metal music in general is viewed differently by fans in Europe compared to fans elsewhere, especially in America, and if so why?
HoK: While there is a lot of overlap between the European scene and the US/rest of the world, we certainly see variance at a regional level in what tends to be popular, and country-by-country within Europe. From personal experience we even see some validity in the stereotypes, with melodic death metal having notably popularity in the Nordic countries, power metal in Germany, and grind/thrash in the UK. There is a contrast here to the sounds we have typically heard coming out of the US; southern sludge, very different takes on power metal, and of course, entirely new sub-genres like nu-metal. While there’s probably a sizeable book that could be written on why there is such variance, we think the diversity of metal can probably be attributed to grass-roots development from individual cultures and local metal scenes which have helped to create the incredibly rich and diverse range of subgenres we have today.

CV: What do you feel makes Heavy Metal music so alluring to the fans? What is it about the music that personally resonates so strongly with you?
HoK: We were reading a research article recently that talked about how metal fans tend to be more relaxed individuals than those in other groups, which was attributed to the emotional release they get through their music, and that definitely resonates with us. Whilst we definitely enjoy music from other genres, metal provides a very primal, very visceral engagement that can’t be replicated.
CV: Has Metal splintered into too many sub-genres in your opinion, thus, making it harder for newer bands to actually classify themselves as one style over another?  Is it confusing for fans as well?
HoK: If your goal is to classify yourself and identify with a subgenre, then absolutely, it’s a tricky job given the range of subgenres out there…we know that from direct experience trying to describe our own sound, which has been variously been called melodic/death/Celtic/atmospheric/folk/prog by reviewers and commenters! That said, we think broadly having such a range of subgenres is a net positive thing, as it does serve to underline the hugely rich metal environment, and helps those new fans dipping their toes into the world of metal find that sound that really resonates with them.

CV: How would you describe the current state of the music business considering we are now living in a COVID aware, and maybe even feared world? Have things drastically changed long-term for artists and bands given the recent pandemic? What are your thoughts?
HoK: It's definitely been a dire time for musicians, particularly since in the digital age bands are more reliant than ever on sales from merch and door takings at gigs rather than the razor-thin margins available from streaming and digital music sales. However, long term we’re quite optimistic that things will bounce back, possibly even stronger than before…music, and metal in particular, will always be something that is best enjoyed live, and having lived apart from each other for so much of COVID we think there will be a huge level of enthusiasm for gigs returning once vaccines are circulated and infections are under control.


CV: What do you feel makes your band and its particular approach to songwriting work? What keeps the band together and making music?
HoK: Well, we’re married with kids so the band is very much a permanent fixture! But there is definitely a huge benefit to it being just the two of us from a songwriting perspective, we can move a lot more quickly with ideas…we can have a melody idea over breakfast and have a rough cut recorded by the evening.

CV: On a more global view, how do you see your band’s music and songwriting separating itself from just being another Heavy Metal act? 
HoK: It’s always a cliché answer, but we do try very hard with our music to do something different, and do think we are writing in a space where there are not a lot of comparators…which we feel has been somewhat validated in the opinions of reviewers so far, and by the sheer number of sub-genres we’ve been tagged as!

CV: Can an artist truly be unique? Some would argue there is no such thing as being unique; that it’s nothing more than a compounding of influences making an artist who or what they are. Would this then say that artists today are destined to be just copies of those who have already come to pass?
HoK: In our opinion it’s all down to perspective…say you mix two theoretical colors of paint that have never been mixed before, and create a new color. You’ve still used the colors made by others, but the result is something unique. Metal itself of course has its roots firmly in blues, but play a modern metal track and a modern blues track and the differences could not be starker. Music changes, evolves and diversifies over time, so whilst influences are always present, the result can definitely be new and unique.

CV: Are there life lessons to learn being in a Heavy Metal band that you feel cannot be taught elsewhere? If so, what are they?
HoK: Playing metal is definitely something the vast majority of bands do for the art of it; and we do genuinely consider it art. It’s a raw, primal expression, and we live in a society where generally such expression is socially discouraged. Having your thoughts, experiences and emotions channeled through the metal you produce, and reaching and resonating with fans who respond to the energy you create, is one of the most validating and deeply uplifting experiences in life. It’s not for us to say that the same isn’t true of other musical genres of course, but it certainly holds true to us for metal.

CV: What do you feel makes someone a “rock star”? Does being a rock star automatically make one iconic or are the two completely different in your opinion?
HoK: To us, the term “rock star” tends to invoke the idea of where the focus is on the individual and the personality rather than the music; stage antics, attitude, etc. Whereas iconic can be more attributed to a band with such a legendary sound that it becomes synonymous with the genre. Not to sound dismissive, but you could probably be a rock star playing some pretty average music whilst falling short of being considered iconic. But it’s certainly a topic that could be heavily debated!

CV: What's next for you? What can fans expect to see coming as the world looks to surmount a new normal laced with a load of restrictions?
HoK: We’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll see venues reopen for live music as vaccines are circulated and infection rates fall and we definitely hope to be a part of what we hope will be a strong resurgence as music lovers dive back into the local scenes. We’ll be announcing gigs through our Twitter/FB/IG/Spotify pages, so come follow us there and you’ll be amongst the first to know when we’re playing next!

CV: Thank you again John and Sophie for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. It was a pleasure. I wish you all the best and continued success.
HoK: A pleasure, thanks again for having us on, best wishes for The Cosmick View!

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The Cosmick Voice
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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, show host, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.

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