Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
Band: Hand of Kalliach
Members: John and Sophie Fraser (JF and SF)
Instruments: John – Guitars, drums, vocals
Sophie – Vocals, bass
PD: What type of artist are you?
SF: Hello! We are a husband-and-wife two-piece playing atmospheric Celtic metal, hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
JF: We started writing in summer 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, the project had been something we had wanted to do for some time and the restrictions at the time served as a good prompt to do so.
SF: John has previously played a fair amount in metal bands, but our debut EP Shade Beyond was the first release I’ve ever been involved in.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
JF: On the musical side, I think we have pretty broad tastes, covering a lot of metal and rock subgenres but also traditional folk. On the metal side, I’m a big fan of technical/melodic death metal, particularly Fallujah and In Flames. Outside of metal, I listen to a really weird range of Scottish folk, downtempo, shoegaze… my Spotify recommended playlists are sometimes a bit bizarre!
SF: I lean more towards a mix of speed and folk metal tastes, like Primordial, though out with metal some of my favourite bands are more in the folk/indie space. I think the breadth of styles in our music is probably reflective of these fairly diverse influences.
JF: For non-musical influences, our writing is inspired by the mythology, landscape and sometimes very dark history of Scotland, particularly the western Isle of Islay where half of my family is from.
SF: Islay is a bit of a nexus of cultures, from Scottish, Irish and Norse heritage, and there is a huge amount there to inspire.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
SF: It might sound very cliched, but in all honesty we really get a lot of joy just from just one listener connecting with our songs. Of course, that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t love to play a big festival in due course!
JF: Agreed, we’ve really tried to do something quite radically different with this project, blending a lot of elements in, and when it resonates with people it’s extremely validating. But yes, big gigs also a great goal to aim for…!
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
SF: John tends to write the melodies, I will add some vocals and then we build the songs out from there.
JF: They definitely each have meaning to us, driven by the inspirations above, but we like to keep the lyrics fairly abstract so listeners can take what they wish from the songs.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
JF: We started promoting ourselves through social media and pushing demos to radios etc, and got some great initial traction, which was great.
SF: After we’d got a few positive early reviews and realised people liked the sound and were keen to play us, we decided to up our game and partnered with MetalMessage Global, Markus there has been a phenomenal force in promoting us much more broadly than we could do ourselves.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
JF: We’re both of the view that piracy is detrimental, as it is hard enough being a musician these days, and the likes of Bandcamp and streaming services means that it’s so easy, and often effectively free, to get your hands on new music, whilst still providing a modicum of support to the artists.
SF: Plus, with the options between streaming and direct downloads through Bandcamp etc, there’s a lot more direct interaction now possible between fans and bands than ever before, so while digital music has resulted a lot of piracy, there is a big upside too.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
JF: “The Void Alone” by Fallujah is probably my favourite track; it has the perfect mixture of death metal vocals, technical guitar and drum work, melodic female vocals and the whole song just drips with atmosphere.
SF: Totally not metal, but “Blue” by Joni Mitchell; it’s so beautifully haunting within the first few seconds of hearing it you’ll never forget it.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
SF: Oh geez, where to start… I mean we’re married so we’ve both got plenty ammo against each other on that front!
JF: Yeah, this is a dangerous question! I’ll probably steer away from the politically sensitive domestic questions and say I recently upgraded my guitar of 20 years to a new Schecter Hellraiser, which has active pickups that require a battery. For non-guitarists, the battery only engages when the guitar is plugged in, however having played exclusively with passives for 20 odd years you can guess the amount of 9V batteries I’ve gone through so far having forgotten to unplug the guitar after playing…
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
SF: We were Band of the Month for January 2021 on Metal Meyhem Radio in the UK on Midnight Furie’s Midnight Hour, which was a huge surprise as we had been picked up through our listing in the Metal Archives even prior to launching the EP. Going from and totally unknown brand new to a Band of the Month within a matter of weeks was amazing and very humbling.
JF: When I was a teenager I was drumming for a local grindcore band that ended up headlining a small festival in the Netherlands, which was absolutely mind-blowing at the time. But I think the Band of the Month spot tops it!
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
JF: Following the reception of Shade Beyond, we’re right back at writing and have a few tracks we’re working up, with a view to releasing a single next.
PD: Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there.
SF: With no estimated dates for venues in Scotland reopening any time soon, we don’t have any live shows planned yet, but if you follow us on Twitter/FB/IG/Spotify you’ll be the first to know when we’ve got some dates in!