Serbian act CLAYMOREAN have been about for a few years, but have recently matured into quite a formidable heavy metal band with their upcoming release Eulogy for the Gods. Keep It True festival – are you listening? We grab a chat with the very pleasant and friendly Vladimir Garčević and talk recording, influences, a bit of a Western Balkan perspective, which of us has the worst hometown, plans for the future, and lastly, whether there any pitfalls of being married to the singer in your band? 😉
Hello Vladimir – well, you just released ‘Eulogy for the Gods‘, and I hope that the band gets some new attention, because CLAYMOREAN is now even better that ever. How was the recording? A lot of blood, sweat and tears?
Hello, Scott! Thanks for inviting me to do this interview and for the kind words. Well, the album is set for a digital release on September 1st and the CD release for Stormspell Records will follow in two weeks after, if everything goes well. The recording process was pretty much unusual because of the fact that we were recording everything while the covid-19 isolation measures were at hand. So, basically everything was recorded at our homes. A lot of sweat, an occasional tear, but the blood of our enemies was the primary fuel haha.
Can you tell us about the other members of the band, so that everyone gets a mention…?
Sure. There are 5 of us: my brother Goran on a bass guitar, my wife Dejana on vocals, Urosh on guitar and Marko on drums. I am the 2nd guitarist.
So….they say that being in a band is like having a family, but yours really is a family….do you get into any fights and have arguments?
Hahah, that IS a great question, but I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. The only members who are constantly fighting (not literally) and having multiple divorce threats while recording are Dejana and I haha, but as soon as we’re done with the recording we’re back to being in love.
I checked out the early Claymore ( pre-Claymorean ) release The First Dawn of Sorrow, and it is very rich in texture, more like symphonic power metal than your recent work – do you come from a musical family? Do you compose with notation / tab, or by ear?
I never had a day of musical education in my life. Apart from few chords my cousin taught me when I was 10, I’m basically self-thought player and composer. I can’t write or read the notes, but I know where every note is on a guitar, so that’s a lot for my dinosaur brain haha.
Did you identify with any other bands in those early days? Maybe you traded CDs and zines and so on? Was there much of a power / heavy metal scene in your area?
Back in Claymore days (beginning of the 90’s) we identified with the classics Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, Manowar, Helloween, Running Wild etc. Later, in early 2000’s, when we finally released our 1st album, we were heavily into the Euro power metal stuff and bands like Rhapsody, Labyrinth, Gamma Ray, Symphony X. First bands from Serbia which appealed to me as a teenager were Armageddon and Demoniac. But back in 2003 we had a pretty focused and decently popular metal scene. Bands like Alogia, Moondive, Tornado, Dargoron, Alister, Interfector and many others were huge back in the day, but in 2005-2006 it was pretty much done. For now we’re struggling to revive the metal scene in Serbia. There were never more bands than now and most of them are way better than anyone would think.
Claymore went on hiatus after 2004, and recently you have come back as Claymorean. What changed for you? Did real life get in the way?
The name itself and our musical direction got in the way haha. There were far too many Claymore bands and brands, so we decided to reboot the band with the similar but new name and to finally play what we always loved.
Do you have a fixed compositional process? Or was it different writing this new album?
I never had a way of doing songs. For example, the main chorus riff for Hunter of the Damned came to me in my sleep. Each band member contributed for the new album, so it was a collective effort, hopefully successful, although I’ve yet to like this album, since the recording process took the best of me haha.
When I heard your recent live videos (Dom omladine Kragujevac 31/07/2021 ) , the power and feeling was amazing. Dejana has a really good voice, she sounds natural, but powerful, and there is a lot of ‘magic’ in the sound. I think you captured an excellent vocal performance on ‘Eulogy for the Gods’, but with the good musicians in Claymorean, you are ready to conquer the world as a live band! How far away from home have you played? Maybe you can tour further with this release?
Wow, thanks for the kind words, Scott! Yeah, she is quite unique. Her vocal style doesn’t resemble on anyone particularly and all 5 of us have some kind of a special bond and chemistry between us. We enjoyed the show in Kragujevac and it was the best audience we’ve had so far. We would love to travel abroad and play the shows for audience from all over the world, we really need to have more shows haha. So, a festival or two for starters could be a good thing to promote ourselves to a wider crowd.
You are a big Manilla Road fan! When did you first hear them? Are there any particular MR albums that have influenced your music? Mark Shelton’s modal way of playing is a little exotic – perhaps you have been influenced in your lead work?
Well, to tell you the truth, I first heard of Manilla Road in 1998, through a bootleg CD compilation that was in Greek Metal Hammer magazine. At first I didn’t like it haha, but once I understood Mark’s songwriting, I never looked back. They became my band in a sense that no one from around knew about them, except for the few of my closest people. As for Mark’s playing style, nah, he didn’t influenced me a bit, since I was already a seasoned player, but were I born in the 60’s perhaps he would’ve been my inspiration. Same goes for songwriting. I mean, there aren’t many composers in the world who could stand in line with Shark, but that’s just my opinion.
Talking of scales, from what I’ve listened to so far, you haven’t been tempted to put any of those trills and chromatic turns that you hear in traditional Balkan folk music, into Claymorean. Does the band represent to you a desire to be a good – shall we say ‘global’ heavy metal band, or is a Serbian identity something that is relevant? Or maybe irrelevant? Or maybe you just approach those things in the lyrics?
There are moments that have traditional music involved, like in Old Mountain or We Fight Like Lions or in Mystical Realm (new song from the new album), but we really keep it as inspiration strikes us, because we never wrote a song thinking “hm, this could be a hit” or “audience is gonna love this”. We write music that we love to listen to. National identity is completely irrelevant, but sometimes our local patriotic spirit emerges. We love to emphasize that we come from Lazarevac haha.
Serbia is perhaps looking to join the EU. Given the events of the 90s, many think that this would be a very positive thing, a moving forward. But, how do most Serbian people feel about it?
As far as I know, a lot of Serbs truly despise the EU and USA, because of the economic sanctions during the 90’s and the NATO aggression that happened in 1999. Also, many Serbs feel that USA and EU were directly involved in the Yugoslavian civil wars during the 90’s and the end of Yugoslavia as a country. I believe media machinery on both sides caused that condition and decades will pass before it’s all water under the bridge. But we see how the media manipulation works in the past 3 or 4 decades. The entire planet is being brainwashed for the sake of the rich minority.
Your town outside Beograd looks quite a relaxing place, on Google Earth. Where I live in Birmingham, England, is like the Wild West. The people are crazy here! What’s it like in Lazarevac?
Lazarevac is a mining town, so we also live in a heavy industry surrounding haha. But truth be told, I always looked at Lazarevac as Serbian Birmingham haha, even though I’ve seen Birmingham only on TV and internet. People in our town are crazier than in other towns in Serbia, and even the supporters of our football team Kolubara are called “All Lunatics”. Our town colors are black and green and we are hard people by nature, so I think you’d feel like home here haha.
If you could play with any band, what would be your ideal support slot, and where would it be?
I often dreamt to be a guitar player in Manowar haha, but nowadays not so much… Just kidding. We already had a great show in 2017 supporting Ross The Boss Band in Belgrade, which was one of my fulfilled dreams, since Ross is my childhood hero. But, ultimately, for me, the ideal support slot would be with Manilla Road, anywhere really… Since that option is no longer available, let’s say I’d love to play Keep It True or Up The Hammers festivals with whomever.
What are you hoping to achieve with Claymorean in 2021 and beyond?
Play more shows and record more albums!
If you could go back in time to when you were just starting out, what would you say to yourself?
Lock the window door and don’t eat sweets.
Any words of wisdom, or philosophical quotes that you live by?
Be kind to everyone, because it’s much easier to be an asshole.
Thanks Vladimir, last words for fans, and potential new fans?
Check out our new video single and pre order our new album on our Bandcamp page, maybe you’ll like us!
Thanks once again for having me on this interview, your questions were really great and hope to see you somewhere on tour. Cheers, mate!