Interview: Bucovina

The main message, although it’s not that easy to understand by everyone from the first spin, is that people would do better to try and be who they really are deep inside, while also trying to make the world a better place. Life is too short for crap, and it can end quite abruptly in a thousand ways, so trying to understand as much as possible from the universe almost sounds like a must.

Romania often gets less credit than it deserves, but the country has a wealth of history and a pretty intense and intriguing metal scene. Many interesting sounds come from that neck of the woods, and one of them is the band named Bucovina. A thriving folk metal project with a distinct flavor to it.

Bucovina is also a region of the country, which the band is named after. In the east of Europe, Romania often gets lumped in with other countries as part of the Eastern block. That’s a shame, since the country definitely has a history of its own. The region called Bucovina is part of that, but due to history’s unfolding events, it is now part of Ukraine.

Florin “Crivăţ” Ţibu is the man behind the group. Crivăţ was willing to answer some questions over email, which took quite some time due to various reasons. I’m glad to say that he really gives a lot of information.

(((o))): Could you kindly introduce yourself and tell what your role is in the band?

Crivăţ: Hi there, I am Crivăţ, I play guitar and vocals in Bucovina and I am the mastermind that puts everything together.

(((o))): How did you guys get into metal?

Crivăţ: They say that it’s metal that finds you, not the other way around, haha. Each of us, back in the day, happened to listen to the right song and meet the right people. Honestly, it’s almost impossible to describe what exactly got us into metal, but we’re ever so glad it happened. On the other hand, what KEEPS us into metal is the fact that we really enjoy what we do.

(((o))): How did Bucovina get started? What were your inspirations, both musical as well as thematic?

Crivăţ: I started the band after I went to college, with the bass player from the bands I had back in highschool. I’d say that the biggest thing that made me want to have a band and write music was Vintersorg’s first CD, the Hedniskhjartad EP. I was struck when I had listened to it for the first time and felt like there are things that needed to be said through music I could write.

The first Bucovina tracks were mixture of Viking/Norse/pagan/call-it-what-you-like and black metal, even though it was obvious since that early stage that we might not fall that easily into just one category. Then things evolved, yet we’re still dealing with a lot of influences, most likely because we have different backgrounds.

As for the lyrics, they go from nature, philosophy, old lore and magic, to more mundane themes, but they all relate in one way or another to whatever purpose human existence has in the universe, and how the noblest goal is to be able to understand at least minute fractions of all that existed, exists or will exist.

(((o))): You combine a folkish sound with metal. What is the reason or motivation you chose to go this way with your music?

Crivăţ: Again, it was music choosing us; and we’re lucky for this, because we don’t feel like “hey, let’s write a song like X, or Y, or Z.” In my book, what we are doing is proper neofolklore because we just don’t pick up traditional songs and add distorted guitars and heavy/black metal sounds. Most of the songs start as mere tunes I hum and record using whatever tool I happen to have at hand, and it’s the smartphone almost all the time.

Then, as I get home or to the studio, I grab a guitar and replicate the tune. Most of the time it turns out into a part that is useable or even an entire song theme. Sometimes it’s just useless crap. In a way, it’s like the peasants of old, who went out into the fields to work the land or to hunt, and they would sing. That’s why I say that we’re doing is actual modern folklore.

(((o))): In the past bands that work with national/historical themes have often been criticized for or linked to the far right. How do you feel about this and has Bucovina had to face such issues?

Crivăţ: Well, I guess there will always be people who feel like they must add some of their improperly-founded opinion to the game. Likewise, there will always be people who feel that the need to feel offended by one thing or another. Our paths crossed several times and, what can I say, I pity these folks. Instead of trying to see what lays beyond what they BELIEVE things are, they prefer to stir up shit and call bands names, put words in their mouths and so on. Thankfully, we know better and make do and mend.

We simply like Romania and would love to see it fare better these days, and leave a nicer place to live for our kids. We never agreed with the political views of the guy who owned the label that released our first album, and that’s why we put an end to the collaboration. The fact that we dealt with a label that was perceived as being a spearhead in the NS direction affected us in the early years, but through hard work we managed to shake off that burden.

(((o))): Bucovina is named after a region. Can you explain the choice of name and the significance of the region? I understand that half of Bucovina is part of Ukraine, is that a cause for tension?

Crivăţ: Indeed, Bucovina is a region in the north of the country, with its northern half beyond the Ukrainian border. We went for this name because I and Luparul, the other guy playing guitars and vocals, are from Bucovina and wanted to do something for that amazing part of the world.

Well, tension I wouldn’t call it. It’s more like regret, regret for a past where the Soviet Union used to rule that part of Europe and when the Western countries left the entire East Block go fuck itself under Soviet dominion. Honestly, I believe that the wounds of the aggressive Soviet regime will never heal, and this is so fucking disheartening. Nevertheless, I do believe that it’s worth not forgetting the errors of the past and passing a rich heritage to our offspring.

(((o))): What are the themes and subjects in your music? Can you tell us more about them, since little is known about Romanian paganism, history and so on in this part of the world (and I’m most interested in these).

Crivăţ: Well, it would take years to tell you about Romanian lore. We have stories and legends that seem like they could go hand in hand with whatever fiction masterpiece modern history produced, and we are slowly showcasing them in our songs, albeit in a rather laconic way.

Mostly it’s about the relationship between man and nature, and how certain gifted individuals rise above the human condition to become better integrated with the forces that govern the universe. From merely abandoning yourself in contemplation of a sunset in Bucovina’s mountains, to traveling through vales and woods, to the high plains where horses roam by the hundreds, from the secluded small villages where magic is still a part of everyday life, to the everyday thoughts, aspirations and fears, we’re one with them.

(((o))): Is there in any way a mission or message that you try to convey with Bucovina?

Crivăţ: Of course there is, and maybe this is why our albums are rather short. They simply seem to end when we feel like we said what needed to be said in a certain moment. There is no bullshit on any of our albums, and I do hope we keep it that way despite people way they’d enjoy longer albums. If we will have a lengthier message to pass on, you bet your asses that the album carrying it will be longer.

The main message, although it’s not that easy to understand by everyone from the first spin, is that people would do better to try and be who they really are deep inside, while also trying to make the world a better place. Life is too short for crap, and it can end quite abruptly in a thousand ways, so trying to understand as much as possible from the universe almost sounds like a must.

We are a part of nature, whether we like it or not, and despite the fact that some religions are trying to hijack and downplay the message. We often describe our music as being “Of mountains and magic,” and at times, it just couldn’t be any closer to the truth. We like the nature and the magic way it can still oppose the dumbness of the people who think they are the supreme being. We, as a species, may be cool, indeed, but we’re definitely not the icing on the cake.

(((o))): What can you tell about your last album Nestramutat, which came out in 2015? What is the story you are telling on this record?

Crivăţ: The name of the album could be translated to “Unswerving,” and it speaks about how certain individuals with a strong spirit cannot be broken or changed. In a way, it’s like nature/the planet itself: you fuck with it, it will fuck you up in ways that are far worse, and then there is nothing you can do about that. It’s just the fact that you can’t mess with the planet/universe and get away with it.

Or, speaking about people who are so dear to someone that their memory lives on and on even though they have been dead for a long time. A lot of things change, but some don’t. The latest album is about the latter.

(((o))): What was the recording and writing process like? Does every band member have a specific role in it?

Crivăţ: It’s so fucked up that it almost pains me to remember doing the last two albums. We are so chaotic and so reckless that I keep wondering how do we make it. The truth is that we are incredibly lucky to work with Dan Swano for mixing and mastering. The guy is a genius and a gigantic name in metal and prog, and even though we’re not even able yet to tap into a tenth of his true potential, he gets the job done where other would simply fail or deliver mediocre results.

I’ve learned a ton from him and keep doing so each time I get to talk to him. Also, Dan is an amazing person and we get along very well; and I have to thank him for his patience, too. We are independent so we don’t have a production crew, so sometimes, things are friggin’ difficult and downright nasty, but we always manage to pull through.

As for the studio work, another round of thanks go to Maanu, our former keyboard player. He’s the conductor of the National Opera choir and his duties and schedule prevent him from touring with us, so we had to part ways. Even so, we’re still in excellent terms, he even has a set of keys to our studio. He helps us with tracking when I am not able to, and we’re also writing some choir parts together. As for roles, everybody is taking care of their own stuff.

Lately, Dan Swano became quite busy and with us not having a very clear schedule of how a new album should progress, things are becoming a bit harder. Nevertheless, we worked with Martin Buchwalter, the drummer of Perzonal War, who is also a studio producer, and the first results – the Asteapta-ma Dincolo (de Moarte) single turned out great. We’ll see  what the future brings…

(((o))): Currently you’re self-releasing your music. What prompted that choice? What is the story with the label Lupii Daciei?

Crivăţ: It was a lousy choice we made without fully understanding that the fellow with whom we were dealing (a chap from an obscure label that had signed us) was more interested in pursuing his dumb neo-Nazi racist shit than he was in metal. We are a bit nationalist, but not in a way that relates to such political crap.

We disliked (and still do) the direction things were heading for, because we’re not fighting a fucking racial war here. We don’t hate Jews, black people, the Slavs, we don’t believe in Arian ideology, race purity, untermensch and all the crap. We don’t need any Heil Hitler and swastikas in our music to find a purpose for what we are doing. We realized that the label’s purpose was in no way close to our expectations so we called it a day. If anything, I could be mad at ourselves for making the deal in the first place, but young people DO make mistakes, ain’t that true?

As for releases, yes, we are a completely independent band and we plan to stay that way. We’re doing just fine, as it looks like being true to yourself and not write music just to have another track on the upcoming CD pays off. We have the money we need to produce top-notch digipacks, we have our own studio and bus, we can afford mixing and mastering by Dan Swano, also do our own booking and merch.We can deal for small endorsement deals ourselves, but we’re in no hunger for gear, because we are able to buy what we need and plan to not sell out for the sake of some guitars or other stuff. We CAN manage our own shit. Why would we change that?

Hire some fuck who only thinks about money? Why, it doesn’t make any sense. We are also making our own deals for shows abroad and we enjoy touring on our own efforts. We already toured in Brazil in 2016 and booked nice festivals in Germany this year, with more gigs coming up in Poland, UK, the Czech Republic and more. We are extending our operations, for lack of a better word.

(((o))): What is the Romanian metal scene like currently? What bands do you think are worth checking out?

Crivăţ: Still, the Romanian metal scene is a fairly young one. Before 1989, the Communist regime did not take good of rock and whatever metal people made then, so we can say that we’re a bit behind schedule. Nevertheless, I do perceive some sort of crystallization, with some bands understanding the need of good production, good and – if possible – original sound (even though being completely original is rather impossible).Without being too stiff, I’d say that we are far too busy trying to make things right here (in the band) to have the time to analyze what exactly is going on around. People have better gear, have learned more about music and some of them are really putting up serious efforts to make it as big as possible.

The Romanian metal scene may be a rather small one but certain things are not different from any other part of the world. We do need people with money to put up records companies and distribution networks, we do need support from the public, and no –  nobody becomes a star overnight. We’ve spent like 15 years of sacrifice and hard work until results started to show up the way we wanted. Making good metal is hard. As it ever was.

We do have certain interesting bands, such as Dor de Duh, Hteththemeth, Adamo Caduco (though it’s not metal). Also you could check out Ashaena’s new release, Implant pentru Refuz, Asemic, Bucium or Dara.

(((o))): Can you tell a bit about the history of metal in Romania? Which bands got it started and when?

Crivăţ: There were some feeble metal acts before 1989, but it all started in a rather primitive way after the Revolution, with a mixture of punk, thrash and hardcore-ish bands which are no longer active. We were so hungry for rock back in the day that we enjoyed everything and everything seemed like a godsend for the masses. Unfortunately I haven’t dedicated time to becoming a metal historian for the scene, therefore it’s impossible for me to speak about this subject. I’d rather say we’re still in the “history in the making” stage.

(((o))): In 2015 there was the fire in a nightclub in Bucharest that has not only shaken the metal scene, but Romania as a whole. In what way did it affect Bucovina?

Crivăţ: The blaze at Club Colectiv put an untimely end to the life of one of our best friends, Adrian Rugina. He was not only a great guy, but also one of the best show producers in the country, having worked with the likes of Metallica and Madonna and everything in between. He played drums in Bucium, a folk-rock band we toured with, with whom we released albums together and was a true friend.

He died after returning to the burning club several times and saving other guys, and he became a national hero. Sad to see that people forget way too easily about guys like Rugina. We don’t; both me and Mishu, the drummer, have his name tattooed on our bodies and we wrote a song to his memory. Eventually, the song became the ‘Asteapta-ma dincolo (de moarte)’ single and we even shot a video for that particular song. Adi goes with us wherever we may roam, he’s not alone and neither are we. He just lives on inside our hearts.

Other thing that changed in Romania after the blaze was that the number of people who can attend a show is now much smaller. Safety, laws, shit like this. In a way it’s better and safer, that’s true, but when you can no longer host 400 people in a place that can handle these guys, things are nasty; and this is because of some small inconvenient stipulated by the law. I do hope things will be better in the future as far as this goes. We have even done two shows back to back in the same place to have all the guys who wanted to see us play well and happy.

(((o))): What future plans do you guys have as a band?

Crivăţ: We are working on a new album for 2018, a special show for the end of 2017, but I can’t tell you more details about this one, at least not now 😉 We intend to dedicate more time to playing shows in Europe and become more professional. Also, new videos are being worked on, albeit in the planning phase, so far. Expect to see us more in Europe in 2017 and 2018, with a big South American tour in 2019.

(((o))): Anything left I didn’t ask but that you would like to share?

Crivăţ: We do feel that we are part of a new wave of bands that managed to raise their heads independently and without having someone pumping money to make us grow. The fact that we are an independent act has its pros and cons, of course, and maybe, when the time is right and the deal is fair, we’ll even take that step to sign a deal with a big production company. Until then, we’re working our asses out to deserve that fair deal. Otherwise, we’re doing fine, and that’s why we’ll keep on delivering fine metal to our fans.

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