Thursday, 22 March 2012

Interview with Nikola Pacek-Vetnić of Svarun (Сварун)

01) Wæs þu hæl Mr. Nikola Pacek-Vetnić. Firstly, let me thank you for granting Fyrnsidu this opportunity to interview yourself. It is a great honour indeed.
Здраво живо и теби, (literally: stay healthy and joyous as well) dear friend, as would be an appropriate response in Serbian for such a kind greeting and even a kinder wish. It is a pleasure talking to you, and I would thus like to thank you again for the opportunity for this interview.
02) Please can you give our readers some information about the prodigious band Svarun (Сварун) – what is your homeland and what genre of music do you perform?
Svarun came into being around two years ago, in October 2008., and was founded in Novi Sad, Serbia, by myself, with other musicians soon joining the original line-up. Since the creative method of ours differs significantly from other bands’ on the scene – in the sense that all the music and lyrics are written by myself, and then handed out to the band for practice – Svarun has been stylistically defined from the very beginning, and that parameter changed very little over the course of time. Our music could be most accurately defined as symphonic progressive metal, though some people dub it gothic and folk as well, which we don’t mind, since those elements can be found here as well.
03) What is the meaning of the term 'Svarun' and what is the concept behind the band?
Svarun is the South Slavic variant of the Slavic creator God Svarog’s name, symbolizing the primordial creation of the Universe through the power and strength of the divine and living fire. Just as the Jason’s Argo of the Greek myth, so is Svarun not simply a distant name or a meaningless word used solely to invoke images of murky and mysterious past, it is a living thing, our protector and patron, someone of whom we talk as if it is another person such as ourselves, that is, a kind of our collective alter-ego.
Even though the original concept of the music of Svarun was to be focused on the divine, this idea did change significantly, effectively shifting our interests from Gods to men, in accordance with humane and intimate nature of our Slavic deities. And so our lyrics came to sing of myths and mythical characters mostly in metaphor, focusing mostly on historical and personal tragedies of the Slavs of all lands and epochs. Overcoming this personal and collective tragedy, hopefully through music, is perhaps an ultimate goal to which we strive for.
04) When and why did Svarun form?
Like I said, Svarun was created by myself in October 2008., with the rest of the people soon joining the show. The reason for this band was most of all the urge to satisfy my curiosity: I wanted to know whether I can make interesting and unusual music, but on the basis of something that is already familiar and mundane; I wanted to find out exactly how much “strangeness” a piece of music can take before it becomes too hard to listen; and finally, I wanted to know if it is at all possible to write lyrics in Serbian that are unique, archaic, and yet understandable and appealing to today’s audience. It is not mine to say how much I have succeeded in these tasks, yet the outcome so far is, in my opinion at least, very encouraging.
05) It is my understanding that Svarun consists of 7 other members. Please can you tell me why you have such a large line-up and what is their involvement with the project?
While thinking about what element would be the most distinctive illustration of the Slavic soul and spirit to use in our music, human voice rose up on the ladder pretty naturally: in the world saturated by demanding (and mostly boring and sterile) virtuoso instrumental music, I wanted to put an emphasis on the singing, both because of the rich singing traditions in all the Slavic nations, as well as the desire to differentiate Svarun from other acts available on the scene today. Hence the large line-up: we have featured as many as five singers live, in contrast to only three nowadays. When you add the genre’s standards: drums, bass, two guitars, keyboards – you get the current number of eight, which is, due to fluctuations in the people’s minds and their changes of heart, by no means definite.
06) What is your specific involvement with the band? How you ever been involved in any other projects – musically or otherwise that you might like to share?
I am the band’s composer, lyricist and orchestrator, as well as the drummer and studio singer. Other than Svarun, I’m mostly involved in work on my own artistic opus, since I am studying for an art composition degree ( www.myspace.com/nikolapacekvetnic ). Also, I am working as a drummer in local old-school death metal band Sarcomman ( www.myspace.com/sarcomman ), running my art metal side-project Prometheus ( www.myspace.com/prometheusnovisad ), and writing orchestral arrangements for video games, trailers and such, from time to time.
07) Lyrically, what is the concept behind the band – it's inspiration and motivation?
Like I said in our biography available on-line, prevailing theme in our music is overcoming personal and collective tragedy of today and achieving peace and tranquility within ourselves and in relationship with others, that is, we are focused around a positive humanistic message, intended above all, but not exclusively, to our brotherly Slavic nations, possibly the ones who bore the worst brunt of the misfortunes of the bygone century. By addressing themes from the Slavic history, the ones distant in time as well as almost contemporary ones, we inspect the crucial moments in our past (fratricide that lead Vladimir the Great to power (980.), fall of the fortress of Arkona (1168.), breakthrough at the Salonika front (1918.) that paved the way for the tragic unification of the South Slavs), searching for the source of our mishaps within them, stripping them of any reason or value, putting the human life and freedom above all else.
 
08) You have released, as of this interview, a 7 track self released Demo/Promo in 2009 and a 12 track split with the Russian band 'Midgaard' from Yaroslavl in 2010. You did 5 tracks of the 12. How well have these been received in your homeland and across Europe and what was it like working with Midgaard?
Yes, indeed we did. The choice of bands for the release in question was actually made by our label, yet we gladly agreed, since the theme and the sound of Midgaard goes very well with our own. Also, the guys from Yaroslavl seemed very pleasant and relaxed, leaving us with a lasting good impression and a desire of extending this cooperation on stage, if at all possible. The impact of our share of this split CD was somewhat watered down, due to the availability of the same material for free online, even though in mp3 format only. Nevertheless, our copies sold very well, and the effect it had on the local media was very satisfying, thus fulfilling it’s role as the album’s precursor adequately.
 
09) Svarun have a new album coming out, self titled. I believe it to be a 13 track release with a 14th bonus track entitled 'Жезл' (Scepter) but this track is only available online. Can you please tell us a bit more about this release – its background, concept behind it, etc and when it will be released? Indeed, what is your hope for it? How much has this release differed (lyrically and musically) from the Demo and Split? Can you also tell us why the 14 track is not to be released on the CD?

Yes, it is our long expected debut, delayed several times, now finally released, some two or three weeks ago.
This album is a product of two years of writing, rehearsing, and fine-tuning every single detail imaginable in order for the music delivered to be as perfect as possible at a given moment. The original idea I followed loosely when writing this music, was an image of the unified Slavic space, more so intellectual than physical, a sort of a philosophical Slavic utopia, where, at least in the fields of art and culture, would the boundaries be nullified and people and ideas be allowed to roam freely and without constraints. This idea gave birth to pieces such as Slavija (Slavia), Meranija (Merania), Krunidba (Coronation), Seobe: Pohod (Migrations: Conquest), etc. However, another streak soon came into view as we neared the start of the recordings, a violent and unfaltering determination so reminiscent of the God whose name we adopted, so aggressive and primeval that it influenced the whole material with only a few songs on album that actually represent it. What we got in the end is a mixture of contrasting elements, peace and tranquility on one hand, and the aggression and determination on the other, eternally opposing, as well as compensating for each other. Again, very typical of Slavs.
My personal, and also the bands hopes for this release are, first and foremost, that it will mark the beginning of a long and prosperous period of live performance and opportunities to communicate our message to as large as number of people as possible. Second, we would like it to establish us as the presence of some weight on the scene, and lastly, some commercial success wouldn’t hurt at all.
The main difference between the demo and split release on one hand (since it is the one and the same material) and the album on the other is in the sound. Even thought the both are done in non-professional home studios, the former is of much lower quality, lower performance, and also lacking many of the high quality orchestration present only on the album.
The reason for the lack of track 14 on the album is the most unfortunate one, and it is: the lack of space. Turns that the label had to insert some of it’s technical data, thus reducing the space left for the album, and so the album had to be cut a bit short. To compensate for that, we will release the lossless version of the piece online, just as we did with Čeljust (Jaws), which was also expected to be on the album, but had to be left out because of the same reasons. Čeljust is available as the part of Slavija EP release available for free online (check www.myspace.com/svarunmusic for details).
 
10) It is also my understand that you are to also release a 4 track EP on Nymphaea Records, your current record label that you have been with since the release of the Split. Can you tell us a bit more about this release and your views on your relationship with Nymphaea?

Like I said, this EP was self-released by the band a few weeks before the complete album appeared, as a sort of a precursor and a showcase of what to expect on the finished release. This release consists of another album leftover, Čeljust (Jaws), Meranija (Radio edit), Slavija (Radio edit), and Slavija (Instrumental edit). You can download your copy of this EP for free from
www.myspace.com/svarunmusic .
11) How well known is Svarun in your homelands and, indeed, outside of Slavic lands? Who do you find, primarily, to be the followers of your art? And, if not already, would you like your music to become more known in the West?

Even though our line-up constantly changed, preventing us from appearing on stage more often, we have, in my humble opinion, made an impact on the local scene, mostly because of the extravagant instrumentation, use of Serbian language, and the sheer force and oddity of vocal section. Judging by what I have seen so far, people who like our music mostly come from two groups: they either like, or find intriguing, the music itself, or they find the whole pagan idea and the lyrics quite appealing. Also, there are those who belong to both groups as well. As much as I can tell from the online contacts, we are listened to in Russia, Czech Republic and Slovakia, to say the least. If our luck holds, we might even accept some invitations to tour in those lands, but, more about that when, and if it happens.
 
12) Are Svarun primarily an underground band or are you known in the mainstream?

We are at the moment in between. I believe that we have accomplished enough to rise above the label of a demo band, but due to the specifics of the Serbian metal scene, by which I mostly think about the lack of support and opportunities for such acts, I believe we are still far from mainstream. Luckily, things are changing for better, and, as I said, if our luck holds, we might soon make some actual steps towards the mainstream status.
 
13) What language do you perform your songs in and is their, if not already, any thought as to producing any tracks in English in the future?

At the moment, we are only performing in Serbian, with the exception of the two Russian versions we did for the album. As for the English versions, the lyrics are already prepared, and we are at the moment waiting for some business things to settle before we start recording the English lyrics. Whether that will be a simple voice over (English voices over the Serbian ones), or the complete re-recording of an entire, or part of album, it is still early to say for certain.
 
14) Do you perform live and are their any plans to travel to Britain? What is the reception to Svarun when performing live?

All depends on doing the English versions of the songs and then launching those on to the Western market. I am confident that there is a place for Svarun there, since I am certain of this music’s quality and value, however, it would not be wise to plot any plans before we have something to offer. We would also like to tour the Europe, if opportunity arises, however, no such propositions have been made so far.
 
15) Heathen revivalism and reconstruction seems to be increasingly observed in Slavic lands (I believe it to be called Rodnovery) as is Odinism (also known as Asatru) in the West - alongside an increasing connection with nature and the environment. Would you agree with this in your lands and why? Is it primarely a revivalism of the pagan Slavic old ways or it is coupled with new-age spirituality like Wicca as in the West? Also, can you tell us anything about the organisation being this revivalism and any religious organisation – such as the Veles Circle? I always seem to read a lot about a man called Ilya (Veleslav (Велеслав)) Cherkasov? He seems to be a figure head within Rodnovery in Russia. Can you enlighten is anymore or give us any information on such things in your lands?

I belive that, in accordance with the Age of the Pisces coming to an end, the age usually associated with lies and deceit, the great monotheistic religions of the Earth are all facing a major crisis. Whether this is their dying breath or not remains to be seen. On the other hand, indeed, throughout the world we are witnessing a rise of the old religions and the increase in self-awareness of the people in individual, national, and spiritual matters. I believe it to be an answer to the violent and unnatural tendencies of the various forces present in the world today, the forces gathered under the banner of globalism, a movement that propagates the unity through the erasure of the differences, which are deemed undesirable, while unaware that those very differences are what makes us unique. It is very similar to what happened in the former Yugoslavia during the nineties: 50 years and more of sweeping the problems under the rug, shouting as hard as possible that we are all equal and the same, forcing the false and damaging picture of false progress and unity, came to us as nothing better than a cold sobering shower in the form of the bloodshed that lasted for almost five years. People are rediscovering themselves these days, and they find to their liking what they see, this happening not only to Slavs and Germanic peoples, but also to the Maya, the Aztec, etc.
As for the nature of Slavic revivalism, it is a task very difficult to undertake, mostly because of the centuries of repression that the Slavic peoples have endured during their history, a time when not only their physical existence came into question, but also the achievements and feats of their religion, culture, and art. The result of those hardships is that our histories, myths and beliefs are basically written down by other nations, most of the times inaccurately, and sometimes these records even completely falsified or wrong. In relation to the revivalism in question, it is very hard to tell what is “authentic” and what is not, and that dilemma is present in almost every field of this complex activity: from the number and authenticity of deities, over their internal relations, to the myths, legends, customs and rituals that the budding community should follow and perform. The consequence of this jumble is a wide spectrum of communities, each with it’s own set of beliefs and rituals, trying to reconstruct that ancient faith in these modern times. I personally find nothing wrong with this approach, since there could not be a single, canonized and constant religion on such a great space of land as the Slavic country once was. Even Christianity, which has been around for at least ten times less than the pagan religions, was, and still is, constantly changing to meet the demands of it’s day. As for the new-age spirituality influences in the Slavic revivalist groups, of course, there’s that as well, but I do not think this is dominant at all, it’s more of a passing trend, or a marginal current in the movement, nothing more than that.
I must admit that I am not that briefed in the affairs of the Slavic revivalist groups from abroad, but as far as Serbia is concerned, there are a few fledgling groups here, mostly centered around the internet forums and magazines, as well as some book publishers and writers, of which I would like to single out “Pešić i sinovi” (“Pešić and sons“, webpage: http://www.pesicisinovi.co.rs ), the people who are responsible for an entire library of books on Slavic antiquity (covering themes such as the religion, customs, mythology, archaeology, history, and such), also the publisher of my favorite writer Aleksandra Bajić, whose work on reconstruction of Slavic mythology by studying the surviving pieces of folk art and traces of customs left in Christianity is simply astounding.
16) Is the heathen revivalist religion an officially sanctioned spirituality in your homeland? Or, indeed, in any Slavic nation?

As far as I know, the only registered communities are of Rodnovery in Russia, and also there are some in Poland, using the Zbruch idol prominently in their iconography. In Serbia, things are very much different, our country being as turbulent as it is, registering such a community and operating in the full public view would be a bit difficult, to say the least. But, as far as individuals are concerned, there are a lot of people practicing ancient rites in the privacy of their homes, though that is not that much exposed in the media (there are some very nice photos on the website of the publishers I mentioned above that illustrate this very well).
 
17) To what extent are the other members of Svarun pagan and are you yourself?

I was never much of a social type and always tended to myself, so it was always hard for me to engage in any kind of group activity (other than playing music), which is an essential part of a religious community, I suppose. On the other hand, I do have an idea of God is (to me), and what is my own connection to this God, and I believe that this idea fits the pagan description, to some extent. As for the other people in the band, I have actually never asked. The most important thing is to be human: whatever path leads you to that goal is absolutely as fine as any other that serves the same purpose.
 
18) Do you find the followers of Svarun to be pagan and/or fan of your specific style of music?

I guess our audience is truly a mixed multitude: I have heard positive comments from people of all the possible age / gender / social groups, so it is difficult for me to single out a typical listener of our music. Slavic theme is an important, but still only one part of an entire package that we have to offer, the others being of no less importance or quality, in my humble opinion. But, nevertheless, I am sure it invokes certain pride and joy, if only for a fact that for the domestic audience, as well as people listening us from all over Slavic world, it is a music in their own language, about their own people and history.
 
19) Do you consider Svarun primarily a vehicle for your beliefs, or do you consider yourself a musician first and foremost?

I have never heard of a composer of truly absolute music, that is, a music that is in its entirety a product of sound architecture and gymnastics, a music totally devoid of any spiritual connotation and personal imprint of its author, and I am surely not to the one to break that rule. I would say that, in Svarun, my main goal is delivering a message: that would imply that the beliefs and their manifestations such as iconography and lyrics do have a slight advantage over music.
 
20) Are their any other good bands heathen (metal, folk or otherwise) coming out of Serbia that you would recommend looking out for?

Yes, there are many bands that would fit that description, most of them falling into the category of pagan black metal, but other genres are also present. I must say I'm not that much into Serbian metal scene (in the role of a listener), so I am not the competent judge on the quality of such bands, therefore would avoid recommending any. Still, for an interested seeker, there are plenty of resources on the internet, so feel free to search some out!
 
21) Our world today seems to be in a dire situation on so many levels and in so many areas. If you could change anything about the world today, what would it be?

That is a tough question. I would advise people on turning back to their own personal matters, work on themselves and try to achieve a clearer mind and a purer spirit. That would be the beginning of the end of problems for mankind.
 
22) Today, in this politically correct and multicultural world, being proud of your culture, heritage, ethnicity and your folk (and even following a reconstructionist religion of their pagan ways), is often seen as 'hatefull' and 'racist' - or at least it is propagandized as such in the mainstream. However, it seems that for the non-white peoples, especially in Britain and the West in general, it is not only encouraged and promoted, but glorified also. Is this the same in your country and why do you think this is?
 
Yes, the situation is the same in Serbia, with the difference of the nature of the conflicting groups here. I believe that the hypocrisy of globalist movements is the root of the problem in question, with the false assumptions that the majorities are always, by default, harassing the minorities, a cunning tool which is used very exhaustingly to employ the strongest force in human beings: emotions. Emotions of guilt, being sorry, hateful, resentful – all that can be ignited by that simple accusation that the “modernist” and “progressive” forces use all too often. Needless to say, the ultimate goal is to achieve the governance of majority of people by the minority of people. There is a certain “sweet” note to the sound of saying: “I am a European / cosmopolitan / American”, and so forth, a special feel-good-about-yourself feeling similar to, in my opinion, the medieval knights in relation to their damsels, who felt the sweetness of love in the very act of longing and waiting for their sweetheart to appear. Same is with today’s modern people, so called, people of the world: the only thing important is to assimilate the foreigners into our own culture and show them how welcome they are, without any question on their intentions, background and so forth. Not to mention that this goes the other way around as well: take the example of the democracy of USA being imposed on nations all over the world. The other, I was reading an interview with former American ambassador in Serbia, William Montgomery, who says that the model of American democracy is not, as they now realize, a universal rule which would apply anywhere. Well – of course! That’s because peoples and nations are different and each and every one requires a different approach.
Of course, there is also a darker side of this approach, and that is the hypocrisy of cruelly dealing with all those who think differently, thus endangering such an artificial order of things. Those very actions are fueling hatred for the so-called democratic west, into whose very fabric the idea of tolerance is woven. What do we get as a result? Harsh reality of living in a world where life is constantly endangered by the actions provoked by ideas which are held in such a high regard in our cultures. If democracy is the will of the people, I wonder what is the people whose will this is? Perhaps it would be troubling for most to find this out.

23) As we have discussed before, but for the benefit of our readers please discuss again – Svarun feature a 'Schwarze Sonne' on their self titled 2010 release. [Ed - In this issue we will feature an article on the pagan use of this symbol and the Swastika and Kolovrat]. For a 'very' brief overview of the symbol, as per Wikipedia, the “term Black Sun (German Schwarze Sonne), also referred to as the Sonnenrad (the German for "Sun Wheel"), is a symbol of esoteric or occult significance - notable for its usage in Nazi mysticism. Today, it may also be used in occult currents of Germanic neopaganism, and in Irminenschaft or Armanenschaft-inspired esotericism - but not necessarily in a racial or neo-Nazi context." Please tell us why Svarun chose to use this symbol for this release? Also, the Swastika (also known as the Fylfot or Fyrfos), and indeed the Kolovrat, is the primary symbol today representing our revivalist pagan spirituality, in our respective nations. However, many ill-informed only seem to view these symbols has hatefull and racist due to their use in the Third Reich. Your views please?

Like I said in our first conversation via comments on Facebook, which I would not alter as I find it most suiting, Sonnenrad, or the Sun Wheel, is the symbol corresponding to Slavic Kolovrat (also translated as the Sun Wheel), which is a variation of a swastika symbol. Since the album is loosely based on the theme of the Slavic reunification, at least i...n a cultural sense, we have taken the liberty of using the Kolovrat (in all it's shapes and guises, since you can see the plain Kolovrat on a halo behind the Svarog's head on the front cover, not to mention several other variations present in the booklet), being the symbol of the creator-God of Slavs - Svarog (the one who appears only at the transition of the ages, that is, when one age reaches it's conclusion and another one is to begin), alongside the linden leaf (which has been agreed upon by the Pan-Slavic congress of 1848. to be the symbol of the united Slavs), as the most important, and thus, most recurring symbols of the said Slavic unity. Of course, all symbols used in ancient times have been revitalized in the modern days numerous times, mostly by esoteric and occult societies, of which one of the most notable ones are the nazi-related occult societies of the XX century. We are aware that some, if not all, of these images are permanently fixed in most people's minds as the epitomes of pure evil, however, we are firm in our resolution not to back down on the usage of what is our peoples' authentic symbolism and iconography, simply because of the propaganda and the influence the mass media exerts upon the modern man. I never miss a chance to clarify anything, and also hate when people suffer from prejudice concerning the (as of yet) obscure chapters in history. A lot of people are, for example, surprised when they discover that the whole spe...ctrum of eastern religions still use swastika and related symbols very prominently, not to mention that there is scarcely a culture on Earth that didn't use some form of swastika in it's early days. Ignorance is truly the foe of man.


24) Thank you Mr. Nikola Pacek-Vetnić. This has been a very pleasant interview and very informative – a great honour. I personally urge all readers to take a listen to Svarun and support them – a truly tremendous band. Is their anything else that you would like to add Mr. Nikola Pacek-Vetnić?

I would also like to thank you for the opportunity on expressing mine and the ideas and opinions behind Svarun. This has been the most refreshing and enjoyable experience and I do hope we get to repeat it sometime in the future. All the best to you and your readers!

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