Friday, October 26, 2012

Interview: Patricia San Martin of Celtibeerian

As their name implies, Spain's Celtibeerian is a folk metal band with two goals in mind - create boisterous music that's rooted in their Celtic heritage, and have a helluva good time while doing it. It's been nearly a year since Celtibeerian released their debut album, Tirikantam, but the band has been very busy bringing their music to stages all across Spain. Even so, Patricia San Martín (Patri for short), the band's violinist, donated a bit of her time to participate in Harvest Moon's Women of Heavy Metal interview series.

[HMM] For readers unfamiliar with Celtibeerian, would you introduce the band and describe your role?

Patricia San Martin of Celtibeerian
[Patri] Celtibeerian is the result of a project that Gustavo [Infantes] and Julián [Yagüe] had in mind. They were playing (and still they do) in a Spanish rock band called Mala Fortuna, and they wanted to create a new band within the European folk metal frame. The band was formed in January 2011, when Gustavo, Julián, Victor [Fernández], David [García] and Alex made the very first line-up with drums, bass, two guitars, bagpipe and flutes. Alex left the band and not much time later, in spring, and I came to be part of the final line-up. It's a happy band, with quite danceable music and generally a party on the stage. My role in the band is basically the little crazy violinist.

According to the Celtibeerian bio, the band formed in 2010 and you joined in 2011. How did you come to be involved with the band, and were you involved in any other heavy metal projects at that time?

Well, as I said before, the band was actually formed in January 2011, although the idea started to move in 2010. Truth be told, I came to be involved with the band out of a coincidence: a friend of mine told me about a “violinist needed” event in a social network, I contacted Gus with the advert and he sent me two songs to prepare (one of them was Korpiklaani's “Wooden Pints”) and we settled an audition meeting with the band's rehearsal. The day of the rehearsal I felt pretty good, in the mood, playing with them, and they enjoyed also the sound we made, especially being our very first time playing together with me. I've played other music styles, from classical to Greek folklore and even reggae and ska, but I had never played anything metal-related before joining Celtibeerian. That's why I thought it'd be an interesting challenge, and in fact, I've learned a lot and I found this is a style I love.

Celtibeerian's debut album, Tirikantam, was released at the end of 2011. How has the feedback been so far?

The feedback for this first album has been very good, really. We released the album with a little live concert in our city, Ciudad Real, in a pub called Route 66. People could barely move because it was completely full of them! At Cuenca and Madrid (bar “Callejón de los Gatos” and “Excalibur Metal Bar”) had also lots of people. People wanted to see us live, and according to what we heard from different people, they enjoyed it a lot, and so did we as well. Seriously, seeing the people enjoying so much with our work is a feeling which description is beyond words. I hope we continue with this kind of feedback in the future.

Have you received feedback from other parts of Europe and the world?

More than we expected, actually. When our songs started to sound here and there over the Internet we received album orders from Germany, France, UK... Einheit Produktionen, German distributor, ordered some copies to distribute, and they're sold also away in Japan. We've received offers to participate in festivals abroad, the farthest, USA next March, but unfortunately we can't go due our lack of money to cover the trip. We're present in several forums and social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace...), and mainly to have our work in English within a purely European style metal has made it easier to have more feedback abroad than inside Spain at the beginning.

How does the word Tirikantam translate into English?

Actually, this question should be asked to David, since he's the one who does all about the “weird languages” hahahaha. But this I know: “Tirikantam” means “To the assembly” in Celtiberian language, an old (and dead) Celtic language spoken in Spain quite a long time ago.

The lyrics to the song "Full Moon" tell the tale of a warrior's longing for his new bride as he marches to war, with his story carrying over to the song "Riding Home". What was the inspiration behind the story?

Again, this one should go to David... and Gus. They both are the lyrics writers. David told us a story from an old Castilian romance, and this story of the soldier longing for his bride was adapted and rewritten until we got "Full Moon"'s lyrics. David and Gus also thought it was a good idea to use a common legend between Germanic and Celtic myths, about a man who rides to his love's place and runs into an elven, or goblin (depending on the culture), settlement when he crosses some forest or mountains. This legend was also adapted to "Riding Home"'s lyrics, carrying on the story from "Full Moon". Also, in "Riding Home", Gus and David added a pinch of humor with the goblins' curse nature and an open ending of this story.

Has the band begun working on new material for a follow-up to Tirikantam?

Indeed. In fact, David and Julián started to bring new drafts (music and some lyrics) back in October 2011, two months before the first album released! Hahaha. Today we have a good bunch of drafts, ideas, melodies, full songs, lyrics, structures... the new album is being forged and it'll be more professional, longer, deeper... if everything goes on schedule and we have enough money, we might go to studio next spring-summer.

Is the songwriting process for Celtibeerian a collaborative one? If so, what are your contributions?

Yes, composition is collaborative and open, every one of us can provide ideas, music, lyrics, whatever. Sometimes it is like brainstorming also, and then we select and evolve ideas. Usually, the initial music drafts are provided by Julián and David, and the lyrics by Gustavo and David, but then everyone works on it and everything is put in common. My main contribution is not in composition so far, but in rehearsals, seeing if everything sounds OK for me, if the violin line needs to be polished... mainly because when I entered the band, the first album was already quite finished and we were just some weeks ahead from entering to the studio, but some arrangements in vocals and violin are my contributions, added just before recording. But as I said, we never argue about who said this or who should write or not and blah blah... the process is very open.

It seems like Celtibeerian has been very busy playing many live shows. Are there any interesting stories from previous gigs that you’d be willing to share?

Wow, we've been very busy hahaha. There's a lot of situations and stories, on stage, off stage... some of them are, for example: At Galicia, when our car broke down twice on the road the same day (8 hours for 40 km), at Cuenca we forgot our merch case under the stage (it was a stage on the street, so... open) and we found the case just in front of our door the morning after (whew!), the time when Gus spilled almost the entire wineskin on him accidentally on stage at Madrid, the flood of people going onto the stage at the Keltoi Fest when we were playing Gallaecia to dance with us up there... and more recently, at Córdoba, with a very good local band, Mörrighan, the pub's owner was going up and down the stage like a little forest goblin offering us to drink from a canteen, we thought it was wine (we're used to drink it :D), but it tasted stronger... we didn't know the owner mixed absinthe with the wine, and when we had played about the half of our set list we all felt a little dizzy, got drunk “faster than it should” and thinking “what the...?” hahahaha it was actually a very funny party that day hahaha.

Is there one song in particular that you love to play live?

I like every song we have, but if I have to choose, there's always one I do love to play live: "An Dro". I think it's a lovely Breton instrumental song and I remember that at the beginning it was hard for me to learn it, I thought it was complicated in some parts, but nowadays it's just as natural as breath to me and I really enjoy playing it. I also need to mention "Riding Home" and "Praise to the Vineyards", I like them very much too.

How long have been playing the violin?

Patricia San Martin of Celtibeerian
Photo: Constantine Agüirre
Well, I'm 21 and I started when I was 11, so if maths went well I've been playing for 10 years, 8 of them between Ciudad Real and Cuenca conservatory. And I intend to continue playing the rest of my life.

Do you play any other instruments?

There has been always a very musical environment at home: my mother sings, my father sings too, and plays several instruments such as Greek bouzouki, guitar, recorders, harmonica, clarinet... so I'd always played a little of recorder, I can play a little guitar too and I love to sing.

Are there any specific musicians who inspire or influence you?

I love music and I like several styles and a lot of musicians, but if I had to say some specifics, one of my favorite violinists is Ara Malikian, a Lebanese with Armenian ancestry. Another one is the classical Paganini, the Italian violinist who was said to be possessed by the devil because of his playing style. I find also outstanding the new violinist of Korpiklaani, Tuomas, I think he's brilliant.

If there was one bit of advice that you could give to a woman with aspirations to play in a heavy metal band, what would it be?

Mainly to anyone, man or woman, who wants to play in a metal band I'd say: make sure that this is what you want. You're going to invest real time from your life and you have to enjoy it. Keeping it short, work hard, try new things, lose fear to do it and go for it if that makes you happy.

Finally, do you have any parting words for your fans and for those who may be reading about Celtibeerian for the first time?

First of all, thank you very much for making me participate in these series of interviews, I appreciate it very much, and I love to communicate my experiences with the people. And to whoever does not know Celtibeerian, I encourage them to look for us through the Internet, listen to our work and try to go to our shows and enjoy something we've created, and we created it not only for us, but to assure the enjoyment of music and party to everyone. Cheers, hugs and kisses to everyone!!

Thank you Patri for those great answers! I can't wait to hear what Celtibeerian has in store for your second album.

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