Sunday, 28 June 2015

A Tribute to Ruslanas Danisevskis

Ruslanas Danisevskis
What's this then, Nazgul?  A little something to mark the anniversary of the sad passing of Ruslanas Danisevskis (ex-Ravenclaw) at the end of June 2013.


So today's post brings together a few disparate elements into a tribute to a fallen comrade: Ruslanas Danisevskis, former partner in crime with Hugin in Ravenclaw but better known for his involvement in Folkearth and associated collaborative projects, and for running his own Atlantida Productions label.

It was through Atlantida that Nazgul first became aware of Ruslanas; this small Lithuanian label would periodically issue a tape or CD collection of various bands in which the occasional song by Hrossharsgrani or Elisabetha would feature, along with a host of bands from all around the world.  Over time, Ravenclaw songs became something of a semi-permanent fixture, being a newly formed project featuring the prolific pairing of Hugin and Ruslanas.

Truth be told, in Nazgul's limited experience in trying to contact the man, Ruslanas didn't seem the easiest person to get on with: approaching him with an interview request back in the day produced an entirely negative response and a demand (it's the only way to put it) that his name be removed from Honour and Darkness reviews - despite it being in the public domain already elsewhere online - hence some wonky looking editing of older Ravenclaw posts where 'R******* D**********' still appears in a few places!

Notwithstanding his views on Nazgul's humble mission, there's no question that R******* - sorry, Ruslanas as we can now refer to him as - certainly had the passion and drive to keep more than a few prominent musical projects on the go simultaneously, and clearly worked in partnership very effectively with his peers.  We all have our off days, and as we know Ruslanas was not a well man, so Nazgul is perfectly willing to be guided by the general feeling in the metal community about Ruslanas' passion for music and overall bonhomie. So in the spirit of international cooperation and as a tribute to one of Hugin's former band mates, Nazgul has put together a few things for today's post in honour of the man and his label.

Firstly we have the long-promised and finally delivered pictures of the complete Atlantida compilation collection.  Secondly, we have what might well amount to a world exclusive interview with the man who created the Artwork for these compilations and for some of Atlantida's other releases, Mike Schindler of Dragon Design.  Mike has gone out of his way not only to respond fulsomely to Nazgul's questioning, but has also shared some previously unseen material that makes for a great interview. Next, Nazgul has unearthed a rare interview with Ruslanas from way back, in which you'll have a chance to read the words of the man himself about his passion for music.  I told him that he'd get interviewed in Honour and Darkness eventually....!  And finally, we end with a tribute to Ruslanas paid by his former Folkearth colleagues in the form of their 2014 release "Balder's Lament". 

So let's kick it all off with.....

The Atlantida Compilation Series:  

The Atlantida series volumes 1-22
As featured in Honour and Darkness posts over the years, a series compiled by Ruslanas to showcase pan-European metal and make it accessible to the masses.  Firstly being on tape only, and then in CDr format from Volume 9, it's a real mish-mash of music spanning virtually every metal genre.  Inevitably some of it is of lower quality than other contributions, but hey - he could only work with what he was sent!


Occasional odd volumes do come up for sale online, though not every one contains a Hugin-related band so fans of our Austrian hero should tread with care.  One of these fine days when he's got the time, Nazgul intends to update the Discogs site for the complete collection of tracks (to do so here would be unnecessarily time and space consuming, and we've much to fit in anyway).


Here, however, are some pictures of the complete Volumes 1-23 for your interest and edification.  I've not seen a complete set pictured before, so if nothing else it is something of an appropriate moment to gather them all together.  You can clearly see a similarity in the artwork on these releases, and that's specifically because there was one man responsible for the covers - one Mike Schindler, who worked on a few projects with Ruslanas over the years.  So let's meet him....


The Mike Schindler / Dragon Design interview:

Mike Schindler
Nazgul was thinking - given the focus on Atlantida Productions - that it would be interesting to hear from the man who created the very recognisable artwork for this series.  With a little diligent research Nazgul tracked down the man behind the airbrush as Mike Schindler, of German based Dragon Design.  We were briefly acquainted with Mike in the update post for Ravenclaw's "Zalgiro Musis" release.


Can you tell us a little about yourself - how you came to work as an artist in this area, and your background as an artist?  What inspires you creatively?  

I have actually studied at a School of Graphic Design for 3 years, but at this time computers weren't a current part of designing, so I started out by drawing everything by hand.  But, I've since met somebody there who showed me to work with an airbrush and I still use this technique.

At this time I was a 'Metalhead' already, I loved bands like Rainbow (with Dio), Iron Maiden, King Diamond/Mercyful Fate, that performed not only fantastic music but also had the cover artworks I loved.  I think the first cover I was inspired by was Rainbow's 'Rainbow Rising', drawn by Kelly as far as I remember!  Furthermore, when I was in school I was already one of these guys who painted on everything I had, schoolbooks, envelopes etc....just any piece of paper I found!

During the years I got inspired from more bands and visual aspects of course, like nature, movies, other artists and so on.  About my taste in music, I still listen to the old bands and Dio or Maiden will be my all-time faves, but I like a lot epic Black Metal, folk with heavy guitars and Swedish Death Metal, so it’s a mixture of the 'old school' Metal styles.

How did you first become involved with Ruslanas - did he come to you for some cover art or a band logo, was it for the Atlantida series or another project, etc?

Well, I don't remember the year exactly, but computers weren't around to use for the usual email exchange at this time, so I received  my first letter from Ruslanas by snail-mail.  He knew my address from the Norwegian Oskorei Magazine for which I did 2 covers at this time, so he asked me whether I could help him with a logo and a magazine cover in exchange for advertising space in his 'Zine.  I agreed and so a quite long cooperation started, beginning with the Atlantida logo itself, and 2 black and white drawings for his magazine, which you can see below.


What were your impressions and memories of your contact with Ruslanas?

Well, of course it was by snail-mail… I was in contact with many underground bands, fanzines etc. at this time; some days I wrote 4 or 5 letters by hand including flyers etc. and so did the others too, there was no time to exchange any personal matters, it was more on the lines of "I want to feature this band in my 'Zine" etc. etc.  If you liked that style and the letter sounded friendly (and Ruslanas indeed wrote very politely and friendly letters), an agreement was made, more or less… although, of course, only if people liked my drawings for their project!!

How were the  designs for Atlantida compilations created?  Were you given free reign to do as you wished, or was there a brief from Ruslanas about what he wanted?

It was as free as I wanted, because I didn’t charge any money from Ruslanas …  he liked them all, but some day he came to a point where he was more focused on the Folk-Metal style and I tried to go a bit more in this direction, so that’s why at last the Folkearth albums have this Celtic orientated style.

Do you have any particular favourites from the covers you did for Ruslanas?

Well, I think it was the last cover art I did for him, for Folkearth's "Fatherland", because it was a picture mixed from a photo and a hand drawn illustration.  The photo shows the view out of the window where I work, directly in front of my house. The view has a bit changed since that time, two of the trees aren't there anymore and it was taken in October or November so the fog and the image kind of represented our style of living over here, it's like of a piece of remembrance for me. The hand drawn head in the sky above also became a shirt-motif for Folkearth, so I think it was quite suitable for the whole project.


If you had to show a stranger just one of your cover artworks as being the best example of your work, which would you choose (for any project you've worked on) and why?

That's kind of a difficult question, because usually I most like the picture I'm currently actually working on.  A better question would be which pictures are most known by people, so I show those around to get more clients, ha, ha…!

I think cover art for Cryptopsy, X- Wild, Witchfynde, Soul Demise,Thrudvangar or Violation had spread my name pretty well and also shirt- designs for Mystic Circle or Crematory.  I don't know -  maybe people should decide by themselves which one the like most, just visit my site

What do you consider to be the best album cover you've ever seen, and also the best band logo you've ever seen?

Also not easy to answer, there are so many awesome artists around and all of them have their own amazing style!  I like  the Giger covers a lot, also the work of Dan Seagrave, Mark Riddick, Kris Verwimp (also their logos), Kelly of course  (because as I told you, his work inspired me a lot), but there would be so many more I could mention.  Maybe at least one example though, the cover of Iron Maiden’s "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" is amazing, and also their Live LP "Live after Death", that kind of style!
 
Tell us a little about what Dragon Designs is up to now:  what projects you are currently working on, where can people go online to see your work, etc?

Well, besides some shirt designs I offer here and there to some companies I finished 2 CD's last year for the Brazilian Band Iron Woods, well 3 if you include the layouts for them. Great Band, and a very nice and serious cooperation, I like this project a lot!

Then there's my current lay-out- work for Einheit Produktionen, and G.U.C., 2 German labels involved in the underground, but also with great bands like Sorgsvart, Thrudvangar, No Mans Land, Andras, Demogorgon, and so on.  There's a new project planned which I can't tell anyone yet, but it will be an honour to work for them.  Besides of that we run our own little label Medusa Productions, you should check out our releases, there are Bands like Dead Emotions, Burn My Shadows, Abrogation or Scared To Death, you can order those CD's directly from our homepage and find out all the relevant information about them there.

Here again are our contact details:  
dragoninfo@dragondesign666.de   
www.dragondesign666.de  
info@medusarecords.net  
www.medusarecords.net

I would be glad if you visit our sites and to you Nazgul, many thanks for your interest and the interview!

Be nice to Demons
Mike/Dragon Design



The Ruslanas Danisevskis interview

This vintage interview with Ruslanas has been retrieved from one of those long forgotten parts of the Internet, dusted down, spruced up and recycled for your enjoyment.  Originally conducted by Nick  "William_Kidd" Parastatidis for the Greek AzrielKris site, it might help give us an insight into the mind of Metfolvik himself and how some of what he envisioned as the future for what Ravenclaw might sound like morphed into other projects. It rather nicely leads off with reference to our old friend, Hugin....

HELLO!  FIRST OF ALL I'D LIKE YOU TO TELL US THE REASON FOR CREATING RAVENCLAW.  IS IT JUST A 'FUN PROJECT' OR DO YOU WORK TO PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS?
At first I got proposal from my friend Alex (of Hrossharsgrani) to create one track for my compilation.  After that we liked result and had an idea to release a full album. I can't say that we are professionals but we like what we do very much!  And I hope that people like Ravenclaw.

YOUR MUSIC BROUGHT TO MY MIND BANDS LIKE IN THE  WOODS AND BATHORY - DO YOU AGREE?  CAN YOU NAME SOME OF YOUR OTHER INFLUENCES?  DO YOU USE ELEMENTS FROM THE MUSICAL TRADITION OF YOUR COUNTRY, LITHUANIA?
I can't say that we have influences from other bands, we have our sound I think.  We don't copy other bands, and our influences are a little different: firstly Viking metal, secondly pagan/folk (with all lyrics in Lithuanian).  We don't choose Lithuanian music motifs because all of the music is created by Alex, who lives in Austria.  And on our second album we have a new member Dimo Dimov, a Bulgarian living in Germany!  But it's possible in the next album fans can hear some Lithuanian music motifs, I have some ideas.....

YOU ALSO OWN A RECORD LABEL UNDER THE NAME ATLANTIDA PRODUCTIONS.  WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO CREATE THIS LABEL AND WHAT CAN YOU OFFER TO THE BANDS?
Yes you are right!  I started with Atlantida releases in 1999 and started release compilation tapes. 7 volumes were released in tape form and from volume 8 I release on CDr.  At this moment I am collecting bands for volume 23, with volumes 1-22 featuring more than 300 bands!  If you are interesting in more information then visit www.brutalism.com/atlantida  Also I re-released black metal band Empty some years ago and in 2003 I started to issue split releases: Primal Dawn/Outrage; Ravenclaw/Svarrogh.  Anyone interested in those releases can contact me by email.

ATLANTIDA ALSO RELEASES PERIODICALLY COMPILATIONS WITH METAL BANDS. HOW MANY COMPILATIONS HAVE YOU RELEASED SO FAR AND WITH WHAT CRITERIA DO YOU SELECT THE BANDS THAT WILL PARTICIPATE? WHICH COMPILATIONS OF YOURS SOLD THE MOST? DO METAL FANS BUY COMPILATION CD'S?!
Yes. And when I started with compilations I never thought that one day I would be looking for bands for volume 23!  I'm happy that these can help and give support for underground bands.  All bands welcome, ask me for more details for putting your tracks on future releases!  I support all kinds of metal, except grind, core, noise.  Each volume from Volume 8 onwards were released in an edition of 1000 copies and have sold around 500-800 copies.

ARE YOU PREPARING ANY NEW RELEASES FROM ATLANTIDA?  IF YES, COULD YOU GIVE US SOME INFO ABOUT THEM?
I am working with Primal Dawn (death metal from Ireland) and on a split with Outrage (death metal from Austria), and also with black metal band Empty.  There is also a split release between Ravenclaw (pagan/folk from Lithuania/Austria/Bulgaria) being a split with Svarrogh (Pagan metal from Bulgaria). And more releases will be out soon!!

YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC AS PAGAN/VIKING METAL AND MY QUESTION TO YOU IS WHAT IS THE CONNECTION  BETWEEN YOUR COUNTRY AND THE VIKINGS?
We can't find a connection...the reason was that I and Alex like history, old times, Vikings, etc.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE OTHER BAND THAT PARTICIPATES ON YOUR SPLIT CD?
If you mean Svaroggh I like this band very much (Dimo Dimov plays in this band and he has also been a member of Ravenclaw since 2003).  Great band with some folk influences!!!

HOW DID THE FANS AND PRESS RECEIVE RAVENCLAW'S MUSIC?  DID YOU HAVE ANY OFFERS FROM OTHER LABELS FOR AN OFFICIAL RELEASE?
We don't do what we do for it to be popular ... but what can I say.... many peoples like our band!  But - there are people who don't like our band!  You know it never will be good for everyone. Our first album will be re-release on tape in Portugal.

I THINK THAT YOU ALSO RELEASE A FANZINE?  TELL US A FEW THINGS ABOUT IT. ARE YOU STILL RELEASING IT OR HAVE YOU STOPPED?
Yes I released "Atlantida" in 1998-99, with two issues printed.  But I had some problems, also some peoples ripped me off so I stopped with my 'zine.

DO YOU KNOW ANY GREEK METAL BANDS? IF YES, WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE ONE? CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK OF THE GREEK METAL SCENE?
Of course!  I know a lot of about Greece and other metal scenes!  I know about 50 bands form your country:  Bands like Septic Flesh, Thou Art Lord, Varathron, Dark Vision, Wolfcry and many more! I like Greek bands very much - you have a distinctive sound, I think.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR LIVE SHOWS?  WHAT SHOULD FANS EXPECT FROM A RAVENCLAW LIVE SHOW?  SHARE SOME OF YOUR EXPERIENCES FROM YOUR LIVE SHOWS WITH US... ?
I think that it is impossible for our band - although we are only 3 members everyone live in different countries...

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE THAT DOESN'T KNOW YOU, IN ORDER TO INTRIGUE HIM?  WHAT IS YOUR MOST APPEALING ELEMENT WOULD YOU SAY?
I'm in metal since '85, and if someone is interested in my releases they can contact with me without problem!

IF YOUR MUSIC WERE AN EMOTION, WHAT WOULD IT BE?  IF IT WERE A PAINTING, WHAT WOULD IT SHOW?
Hard questions :0)

IF YOU HAD AN OFFER  TO DO A VIDEO-CLIP, WHICH SONG OF YOURS WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND HOW DO YOU VISUALISE IT?
I can say only my opinion. Probably it would be a track from the split CD, I think the track about victory (this album is about one of the biggest battles that Lithuanian soldiers participated in). If you don't know, Lithuania is the last pagan country in the world...

IF WE ARE ALL JUST A WORD IN THE GREAT BOOK OF CREATION, CAN YOU SAY WHICH WORD COULD DESCRIBE YOU BEST?  CAN YOU ALSO IMAGINE WHAT KIND OF AUTHOR WOULD BE THE CREATOR OF THIS BOOK AND WHY?
I think that the most important words for me are 'Metal Music'. I think that music helps you have many friends around the world.

LET'S SUPPOSE THAT WE LIVE IN A WORLD WITHOUT MUSIC.  WHAT WOULD YOU DO IN SUCH A CASE?
I can't understand life without music. However, besides music I like sports a lot, I train in body-building, and play basketball and football.

WHAT MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE COMPOSED?
In a historical movie or a movie about the battles of the ancient  times...

THANK YOU!  HAVE I FORGOTTEN TO ASK YOU ANYTHING AND YOU'D LIKE TO MENTION?
Thank you very much for the great questions!  I hope that my answers will be interesting for your readers!  I want to send my regards to all metal-heads, and if someone is interested in my releases he can visit my webpage and/or he can contact with me by email: atlantida@takas.lt


and finally, to end our tribute:

"Balder's Lament"

Metfolvik had the idea to create an international Viking folk metal band, gathering various musicians around the world. His plan became reality in 2004, when he founded Folkearth. After their first releases, he decided to form a second band, with many former band mates from Folkearth, as he wanted to expand beyond the Viking theme. So Folkodia was born in 2007, giving the opportunity to its band members to add elements from their local folklore, both in music and lyrics. Folkodia (by this time hosting 11 musicians from 7 countries: Greece, France, Lithuania, Italy, Monaco, Argentina and Germany) released their final album "The Fall of the Magog" in May 2013, just one month before Ruslanas' death.

Back to Folkearth however, who in 2014 released the album "Balder's Lament", which was dedicated to Ruslanas. There is a unique version of this album, only issued to friends and colleagues of the band, which comes with a special slip-case around the standard CD as illustrated below:


A very nice touch, and a fitting way to end this tribute post to a lost brother.

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