MONGOL interview

Mongol comes from CANADA!!! Can you imagine?! Folk metal from Canada, haha! But, I was really impressed by their music and I hope they will play in Europe ASAP!

Hi guys! First of all I was really impressed by your stuff, so it’s a pleasure for me to ask you some questions! What’s the meaning of your band’s title? What’s the origin of that name, and why you are so inspired by Mongolian theme? Have you changed the band’s name before?

Well, we chose the name Mongol originally with no intent to go for a ‘Mongolian’ influenced sound at all. The name was, in reality, chosen somewhat on a whim. However, all the members that write the music in the band are influenced strongly by Folk Metal music. Zev (Luke), had experience with the banjo, so we decided to try adding it to a few songs. Turns out, the Banjo can have an oddly oriental sound when played with a little legato, bearing resemblance to the Mongolian instrument, the Shudraga. The song “Warrior’s Voyage,” from our first Album, “The Altan Urag,” is the song that I would say first established us as having a barbaric connection to the hordes of Chinggis Khan. This song got us a lot of international attention from folk metal fans who were excited about the unique style of the song, as well as Mongolians who were excited about the idea of a band being inspired by their once great empire. We had a few interviews in Mongolian news-papers and were offered to come play some festivals in there. We decided to really lean into the Mongolian theme on our next album, “Chosen by Tengri.” This is when we decided to finally make our way down to Mongolia to headline their first international metal festival, “Noisefest,” in 2014, alongside Nine Treasures. We had some amazing experiences there and truly formed a connection with Mongolia and its people. Since then, though we differ ourselves from more authentically ‘Mongolian sounding’ bands, such as Tengger Cavalry and Nine Treasures, we are greatly influenced by Mongolian culture, and ancient tales from the times of Chinggis Khan.

What genre of music do you consider your work to be except of Folk metal? Who are your major influences?

Mongol is influenced by many different genres. The band has recently been taking a step in the Power Metal direction, adding more harmonized solos and clean vocals, but elements of Black and Death metal, classical music, and traditional Mongolian/other folk music still shine through in our writing. From a young age, the members who are most responsible for writing the instrumental portion of the songs: Drummer Bourchi (Kenton), Keyboardist She-khe (Dayton), and Guitarist/Clean vocalist Zev (Luke) have been inspired greatly by folk metal music. Some of the first bands that come to mind when I think of our under-lying influences would be Svartsot, Wolfchant, Ensiferum, Finntroll, Moonsorrow, Kalmah, etc.

How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?

Bourchi and She-khe are actually twins and Zev is their older brother. Zev and vocalist Tev Tengri (Brandon) were in several different bands before Mongol. Zev and his little brother Bourchi were also writing music together and eventually had Tev Tengri join them. The trio seemed to be on the same page musically and could jam out new and, what they thought at the time was, great material. It didn’t take long for Zev and Tev to abandon their other projects and rehearse exclusively in this newly formed Trio. Though we have changed IMMENSLY (probably an understatement) in sound, inspiration, and style from how we were in the beginning, this was the foundation for what would grow to be Mongol today. We soon added She-khe to our roster, playing keyboards, or accordion when we did acoustic shows. A little while down the road we added guitarist Zelme (Thomas), who took Tev Tengri’s place to record the vocals for our first album, “The Altan Urag.” Tev Tengri was away on a lengthy quest to the distant lands of China at the time. With him, Zelme brought the mighty Sorkhon Sharr (Josh). The two previously played in a band together in the near by town of Leduc. Within this tale, other members came and went, but, after a few years of searching, Mongol found a line up that worked well and it’s been the same since.

When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?

Due to there being a time of significant line up and style changes, it is hard to say exactly when the band was formed. The Altan Urug was released in 2012 and I would say this is the year Mongol made its official debut. I would say we were inspired mostly by a mutual enjoyment of similar types of music.

Are you a member of any music organizations?

We are a part of Alberta Music and SoCan.

What can you tell me about your instruments? (i.e., Are you subject to brand loyalty or will you play with whatever’s available? What made you choose the instruments you have now? Was it cost or was it a style/model/brand/color preference?

Zelme plays a ruby red Schecter, Zev plays a white Jackson, and Sorkhon Sharr plays a brown wooden ibanez. She-khe plays a Korg x-50 and Bourchi plays Gretsch Catalinas. Zelme enjoys the look, feel, and sound of his guitar. Zev uses his because it is very light and easy to move around with on stage, as well as having 24 frets and being a Floyd Rose, which makes it the ideal guitar for his style of leads. Sorkhon Sharr’s bass has a nice natural colour that fits the feel of our stage attire well and has an excellent sound. She-khe’s Korg has a large array of settings that allows him to find an appropriate sound for each of our diverse songs. Bourchi’s drums also have a nice natural maple colour that fits the bands attire nicely.

Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?

We have performed across western Canada and in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, where Noisefest is held. This had to be one of our favourite venues, as it was a huge arena with a large backroom. It was also the same stage that Kiss performed on when they played Mongolia. As most bands, our first shows were in some of the least ideal venues possible. These included, but are not limited to, legion halls where the reverb transformed any loud music to pretty much an overwhelming wall of noise, garages, basements, venues so tiny that not every member could fit on stage, backyard birthday parties, pretty much any shitty venue you can imagine. However, in a way, these venues are the best venues. Only one venue truly comes to mind as being extraordinarily bad, and that was a small-town festival in a hall that we played around 5 years ago. This venue was ran terribly; the fog machine was left on for hours, making the fake fog overbearing, and there was no sound guy. We played at 2 in the morning and had to mix our own set WHILE WE PLAYED! Some of our favourite local venues include The Mercury Room, The Forge, The Rendezvous, etc.

Which songs do you perform most frequently? Do you ever play any covers? Do you have a set play list?

We almost always play Subutai, Glory of the Khan, Chosen by Tengri, and more recently River Child. Warrior’s Voyage is usually for when we are feeling nostalgic and Eekum Bokum is reserved for when we are feeling particularly rowdy. We played A Pagan Storm by Wolfchant for a long time because it was a song that we all grew up with, knew well, and really enjoyed. We also played Slayer’s Raining Blood for a Slayer tribute show in our home town of Devon. We have recently learned one more cover, but that’s a secret to be revealed at our next show . The playlist is determined for each individual show, depending on where we are playing, how long of a set, what songs we should practice, what we feel like, etc.

Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Do you think these topics will change over time?

Zev writes the main instrumental portion of the songs and Tev Tengri writes the lyrical portion. The songs have most recently been inspired by tales from the ancient Mongolian literature The Secret History of the Mongols. The lyrical content will likely remain forever inspired by ancient Mongolian literature and culture, but album coming up after Warrior Spirit will take us in a very exciting new direction. Unfortunately, it is not yet time to talk about this future album.

Could you briefly describe the music-making process?

Zev writes the main idea for the songs, either first in his home studio or jamming them out with his little brother Bourchi. This usually accounts for the Rhythm and Lead guitar, folk instruments, bass, and drums, which are recorded in the home studio for the other musicians to learn and expand on. The songs are finalized in the jam room and polished in the recording studio. We had the pleasure of working with Diego Fernandez of Oracle studios making Warrior Spirit, who Zev and Tev Tengri work closely with in another project, and who is very generous with letting us experiment in the studio, making any minor changes that we would like. This allows us to truly be satisfied with the final product we are releasing.

What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?

We usually jam about a few of the newer songs that we feel may need some work, and then finished by playing through a full set list we’ve made for an upcoming show. We usually try to jam once a week, but conflicting schedules have made it hard to schedule a set day every week.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?

I think we have all grown as musicians and have gained an array of different influences that show in different aspects of the music. We have also become very familiar with each other as musicians and can write our own parts in a way that doesn’t conflict with each other’s style.

What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?

Our biggest challenge, currently, is maintaining the level of commitment and dedication as everyone grows from being a group of close school friends with nothing better to do but hang out and practice all weekend to a group of adults with other commitments like Work or University. Though it is challenging at times, we overcome it by making sacrifices where we can and being understanding of every member of the band’s personal situation. Being in a band often feels like having 4 or 5 (normally) low-maintenance girlfriends.

What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?

We don’t have a very specific goal with Mongol. I think every musician secretly wishes their band or project would become big enough that they could quit their day job. More realistically for us, however, the band has given us the opportunity for many unique experiences and we are inspired simply by the potential for lots more as the band continues to grow in new exciting ways and take unexpected turns.

What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?

Communication is key. Be up front about what you want and what you are willing to put into a band before you dedicate yourself to it.

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?

Bandcamp or Youtube is currently the easiest way, however, the next album will be available from many different additional sources, including: Itunes, Spotify, Google Play, etc.

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge for offering financial or emotional support?

Firstly, as always, the fans. Anyone who comes to our shows, buys our music, or simply takes the time to tell us that our music has impacted their lives, what we do, as cheesy as it is, wouldn’t happen without their support. Additionally, the mother of Zev, She-khe, and Bourchi, as she has had the interesting experience of hearing the Mongol horde practice loudly in the basement of her house located on an acreage far away from Neighbours.

Any last words?

Thanks for the interview! We look forward to working with MetalMilitia again in the future.