Interview: Theigns & Thralls
Answering the questions is Kevin Ridley, vocalist, and songwriter with the Folk Metal pioneers Skyclad and now the main songwriter, vocalist and guitarist with Theigns & Thralls.
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Watching bands on TV, I guess. Difficult to say but I probably would have ended up being a history teacher
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I like to get out for walks in the countryside and I read a lot, historical fiction mostly and this has inspired some of my songs
How long has your band been around?
Theigns & Thralls is a new band, but it is a side project of mine that includes John Ryan (ex-Cruachan) and Dave Briggs (Waylander). Between us, we have many years of experience recording and playing concerts all across Europe and Japan.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I now live in Madrid (Spain) but I come from the UK. Being apart from the guys in Skyclad (and of course the impact of the Covid pandemic) has allowed me some time and space to write and record something a little different.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
I’m not sure, to be honest. I can’t remember if the band name was based on the song ‘Theigns & Thralls’ or the song was based on the band name. Anyway, it is based on Anglo Saxon times, where everyone was supposed to ‘know their place’ (basically it means masters and servants) and it seems to me that in the intervening 1000 years not a lot has changed in some respects.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Well, Theigns & Thralls are about to start gigging, but for me personally, there are far too many to mention here. But some of the last gigs I played with Skyclad before the pandemic were particularly memorable. I am thinking of the show in Paris, in 2017 (where we supported Ensiferum), our return to Wacken Open Air, in 2019 and our first gigs in Japan in 2020. All were absolutely fantastic.
What is your favourite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Again, lots of favourites but I think the Dong Open Air festival in Germany deserves a special mention (we have played it at least seven times). It is a small but perfectly formed little festival that is efficiently run with a great enthusiastic team, who really look after us.
The only place I would look to play now is North America. I have been there and worked there but I have never done a gig there – yet!
If you could play any show with any line-up, who would be on the ticket?
The Theigns & Thralls is a collaborative effort involving musicians from Skyclad, Skiltron, Cruachan, Helleveag, Celtibeerian, Korpiklaani, Ensiferum, Waylander, Metal De Facto and more. So, I think if we could arrange a gig or a festival for all of these bands to play it would be an amazing time – but it would probably take two days.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
I would say, try to do things your own way and don’t follow the pack, trends or fashion. Don’t worry about having the best or latest equipment but concentrate on writing songs (not riffs) and on communicating with your
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
All of the above, and learn something about how the music business operates, in terms of contracts and royalties etc.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
I have many songs that are special to me, but as this is for Theigns & Thralls, I think the song Strive means a lot to me. I see it as a personal ‘gamechanger’. It was the song I wrote when a clearer vision of what Theigns & Thralls could become into focus. I consider it to be a humanist anthem, with a great groove and it is still Folk- Metal.
Which songs are your favourite to play, and which get requested the most?
As I mentioned, Theigns & Thralls has yet to start gigging, it remains to be seen what people will request, but, in rehearsals, we have all enjoyed playing a track called ‘The Highwayman’ – even if it is an epic song at nearly seven minutes – it’s great fun.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
For this album, I wrote all the songs in my little attic studio in Madrid. I recorded all the instruments for the demo myself, basing the songs off old poems, things I read and some autobiographical stuff. After that, I decided to ask people to replace and add instruments (such as violin, accordion, tin whistle and hurdy gurdy) to make the songs more real. Eventually, real drums and bass etc. were added to make it into an album played by musicians. I get inspired by researching old poems and broadsheets, folk songs, reading history and, of course, current events.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I mentioned that one of the things Theigns & Thralls is about is the way history might be able to teach us a few
lessons, but I also write a lot from a humanist perspective, like in Strive, which says – to quote Bertrand Russell - ‘remember your humanity, and forget the rest’.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
With Theigns & Thralls, luckily, it is too early to have serious disagreements, but every band has them at some point. Depending on how serious it is, you can just own up and say sorry and give it time but if it’s too bad then maybe somebody leaves.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
For Theigns & Thralls, as this is a new venture for all of us, we are very much looking forward to playing our first gigs gelling as a live band. Hopefully, festivals and tours will follow the release of our first, eponymous, album in April.
Album CD pre-order – https://bit.ly/theigns-thralls
Album digital pre-save – https://bfan.link/theigns-thralls
Music Video - “Drinking” at