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Articles Home » Interviews » Requiem (Slovenia) - 2003 Interview with Marko Slokar
 
Requiem (Slovenia) - 2003 Interview with Marko Slokar


INTERVIEW: Requiem [Slovenia] (Apr 2003)
On a wing and a prayer, says Requiem.

In The Spotlight - Requiem (Slovenia)
Interview with - Marko Slokar
Written by: Gdazegod (April 18, 2003)

Earlier this year, HOTR-ONLINE was sent an interesting package all the way from Slovenia. Not knowing a lot about the country (apart from one of my ex work colleagues whose husband is Slovenian, and that the country played in last years World Cup soccer), I was duly intrigued. Out popped a CD by a band called Requiem. Thinking that it was the new CD from a Finnish progressive metal band I worked with last year, I was surprised to find it was another Requiem being talked about here. The cover looked distinctly brooding metal, but once the music was underway, we find these guys are all victims of the eighties hard rock scene - fantastic stuff. Again, this was another pleasant surprise. 'Zadnja Molitev' is Requiem's fourth album from this Ljubljana based combo, who've been doing the rounds locally since starting out in 1993. The bands lineup currently is: Sergej Skofljanec - vocals; Marc Kavas­ - lead guitar; Marko Slokar - rhythm guitar; Giovanni Kavas­ - bass and Damjan Brezovec - drums.

The catalyst behind the band is rhythm guitarist and principal songwriter Marko Slokar. Before we find out a little more about Requiem, I want to take our readers on a tiki-tour (kiwi slang for journey) of Slovenia, courtesy of Marko, who agrees to fill us in on his homeland. 'Well, Slovenia is a small country with a population close on 2 million people' he says starting out. 'Our position on the map is more central European than eastern like many think. We share borders with Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia. The landscape is mostly green but we also have skiing resorts up north and the sea down in the south, so you can go skiing and scuba diving in the same day, as it is only two hours drive from the ski resorts to the Adriatic coast. We consider ourselves an open-minded nation but in fact, we are not as open-minded as we'd like to think. It is true that last year we sent a transvestite group to the European Song Contest. People were very angry with that, and said that everybody will think that we are all like that group. Sad but true, eh?'

Right across Europe, the fan base for metal is very strong. Think of Poland, Italy, Greece, Germany, and Scandinavia - all strongholds. Slovenia it would appear, along with its Slavic neighbors, may just be off the main highway as a potential destination for top bands to visit. 'I think metal in Slovenia is unfortunately treated more like an underground scene comparing to other European countries' says Marko, 'but in general we actually have a lot of new young metal bands and I hope that everything will be soon different than it is now. Since we are a small market, many top bands don't have much interest in Slovenia so we are forced to travel to places like Austria, Italy and Germany to see the acts. A couple of years ago, Metallica played in Ljubljana along with Mercyful Fate and Machinehead, 15,000 people attended. I think that was quite a fair number, which just shows how wrong bands are for not considering Slovenia as an interesting destination to play.'

Knowing Slovenia's diverse history (Austrian and Italian influences along with its Slavic history), the musical culture there must be equally diverse. Marko explains. 'In general, the musical orientation is pretty much like in Austria or Switzerland. I would say that more than 40% of the people are listening to 'country' oriented music. It has nothing to do with American country music as such, it is actually some kind of polka music with very stupid lyrics. In German oriented countries, that kind of music is known as Oberkrainer. The founder of Oberkrainer music is a Slovene musician Slavko Avsenik, who has sold around 100 million copies in Europe.'

Continuing on this track, I asked Marko about the local scene in the capital of Ljubljana. 'Well, we have a couple of rock clubs (300-400 people), a jazz club, and a so called 'Alternative City' which is a small area in the center of Ljubljana, where alternative and underground artists have their workshops and two small clubs for gigs. In Ljubljana there is a whole range of music genres that bands are playing, from rock, alternative, folk, ethno, jazz, pop, and dance. But since the media is mostly familiar with pop and dance music it is very hard for other genres to be presented properly.'

'Zadnja Molitev' ('Last Prayer') is Requiem's fourth and latest album. Ten years have passed since the debut, and many changes had occurred during that time. In some cases, it was more hard work than fun. 'There was a huge difference between the first and latest album' says Marko. 'Ten years ago I didn't know anything about recording, the songs were very raw, the production was very basic, and it was more like going on a roller coaster ride for the first time rather than pure fun. Later on with the next record, after writing skills and arrangements had improved, everything was much easier and it was more fun, but there occurred a new problem - this time with production. The person who was in charge went through a period of experimentation in sound engineering (unfortunately we didn't know that at the time) and the songs lost their original energy and power. Everything sounded very cold and synthetic.'

'You must know that there are no quality producers and sound engineers for hard rock/ heavy metal in Slovenia and I was forced to do everything alone on the third album. Interesting thing in Slovenia is that the financial budget for recording an album is very small. Recording, mastering and editing costs are about $US 2000! Compared to production costs abroad it is ridiculous. For that kind of budget, I think we did a good job and I only hope that we will sign a record deal outside Slovenia and work with real professionals abroad. We have a deal that is only valid in Slovenia. For anywhere else we are free to sign with any record label.'

As a recorded piece of work, 'Zadnja Molitev' demonstrates what can be done on a smaller budget, a sign that the band has progressed significantly enough from those early days to sounding so much better than the current resources afforded to them. 'Actually I must say that the recording of 'Last Prayer' was a dream come true for me regarding the new members especially Sergej, who brought fresh ideas, new energy and a great voice to Requiem. It was a thrill, to work with him and everything that I had in my head was possible to put onto the record. Of course Sergej has much more to offer, considering this album was his first recording experience, so I believe that next album will be even better.'



The press that I've seen for the album is very encouraging. The band I'm sure were very happy with that. 'Oh, yes. That was incredible!' says Marko with a big grin. 'We didn't expect anything like this. Funny thing was, we didn't know anything about sending our records abroad. A very good friend of ours, Gregor Mes­e from www. Rockerija.com, sent them out without telling me, until it was already published on the Net. So the surprise was even bigger and sweeter.'

We've described Requiem's music as very 1980's influenced. Bands like Krokus, Victory, Uriah Heep etc all spring to mind. I asked Marko how he would describe Requiem's sound. 'Well I am a child of 80's, I started playing with my first band back in 1981 and since then I've never played anything else than this kind of music, so it is normal that the songs sound like all of those bands you've mentioned. It is funny but I swear I don't have any records of Uriah Heep or Victory. Krokus is one of my favourite bands but no one else in Requiem listens to them except me. I'm also a fan of Ozzy, Scorpions, Whitesnake, Iron Maiden and other similar bands from the 80's. Sergej is a huge fan of Elvis, Ritchie Blackmore. Marc and Giovanni are both Status Quo fans, and Damjan (obviously being a drummer and all) is a fan of the late Cozy Powell. So if we sound like the bands you've described then that is more or less a coincidence but I'm happy with that because it means we're on the right path. On stage we sound more powerful and direct than on record, and we really love to play live and loud.'

As mentioned, the album title 'Zadnja Molitev' translated to English means 'Last Prayer'. Seems the world could do with a few prayers right now re: Iraq. With Marko being the principal songwriter, religious themes and topical references may have been a logical inclusion on the album. Such topics and references touch a raw nerve with him, as it does with many others around the planet at this time. 'I'm Catholic, and I think that any religion is good until someone abuses its meaning and uses religion as an excuse for war or personal benefit. That really irritates me and also I believe the world would be a better place to live if those who preach the Bible or Koran or any other religion would also act like they talk. It would be great if people who go to church would actually think and act like they're supposed to outside the church door.'

'As for the songs, the first song Krizarji (Crusaders) is about crimes committed in the name of the Church. Armageddon is fictional but has its roots in the Bible, Intro (Lacrimosa) has lyrics taken from Requiem so in terms of writing with religious themes and references, the answer is probably yes, I had them in mind when I wrote the material. However, there are other songs with social oriented themes like Paedophilia (Mr Twister), incest (12 let - means 12 years old), violence in school (Udar nazaj - means Strike back or Hit them back), suicide (Ker te ni - means Because You're gone). Elsewhere though, Transilvania (One night in the eternal life of vampire) and Magic are purely fictional.'

'My favourites are Ker te ni, Mr Twister, Revolution and 12 let, but I really can't say that I don't like the other songs. In fact I like them all but it is different when I play them live than what they sound or feel on the record. On stage they sound great so I suppose I like them all very much.' he says.

Lets talk about Sergej Skofljanec for a moment. What a monster singer! Where did you find him? 'It took me two years to convince Sergej to join the band' says Marko. 'The first time I ever heard him was in one gig he had with his other band called Razvaline (Ruins). They only played covers of bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow, Led Zeppelin and when I saw them I was very impressed. I said to myself: 'That is f***** brilliant, I must have this guy in the band or I'll quit working with my own band'. You must know that in Slovenia we've never had anyone near Sergej's quality and talent so I'm probably the luckiest man in the country.'

Ironically, Sergej can play lead and rhythm guitar, plus keyboards, though in the normal course, Marc plays lead while Marko handles rhythm duties and does the bulk of the writing, which is where I head to next. 'Songwriting is a must for me. It is a replacement for psychotherapy and brings joy and satisfaction into my life.' He explains. 'After I learned the first three chords on the guitar, I immediately started to write songs. Lyrics usually come along with a tune or at least some words that I'm humming along the line. Later I do some corrections or do completely new lyrics but I always keep the theme as it comes with those first few chords.'

Requiem is unique in that they sing in both native language and in English. Obviously, the guys are comfortable with both, but the future direction looks as though English is the way to go. Something that Marko feels very comfortable with. 'In Slovenia almost everyone speaks, besides the native language, English, German, French or Italian so there is no trouble at all. I lived and worked in Canada for three years at the end of 80's and most of the songs I write are in English. Since I didn't know that we would get such a great response from abroad, I had written a couple of songs in our native language so we'd get airplay on domestic radio stations. For whatever reason the media ignore us. I regret now that I didn't write everything in English but I promise that next album will be, if we find a deal outside Slovenia. If not, then the existence of the band, as it is now, is very questionable. I mean, yes we believe in what we do, and we would love to stay together, but if there is only the option to work and play in Slovenia than I don't see any point.'

However, despite that constraint, Requiem have played outside of their own borders, and have their sights set on bigger targets. 'Yeah, we've played in Sarajevo (Bosnia) and this year we are going back on the 26th of June. We got requests from Belgrade (Yugoslavia), Podgorica (Montenegro) and Skopje (Macedonia) but we are waiting for confirmations. We would like to play everywhere they will invite us especially on festivals all over the world. We often talk at rehearsals how great it would be if we get an invitation from some great band to be their opening act on their tour. That would be a dream come true for us. However, I've heard it is nearly impossible to get that without signing a record deal first.'

With the European Spring/Summer just about to kick in, the band is keeping itself busy. 'We will tour in Slovenia during May, a couple of festival appearances and then after that, Sarajevo and hopefully the rest of those ex-Yugoslav cities mentioned before. We hope to know about a possible signing of a record deal abroad.'

Finally Marko, would you like to share any thoughts or comments with HOTR readers? 'Well, first, I would like to say thank everyone for all their interest and time spent reading this article. I hope, you enjoy it like I enjoyed putting it together, and I hope that we will meet many of you in some concert in your town. If that happens, just say the magic word HOTR and a backstage pass is yours!'

Thanks very much for your time. Its been a pleasure! - George. 'Greetings from Slovenia. Stay cool, ROCK ON !!!!!! Marko.

Resources:
www.rockerija.com
Credits:
Marko Slokar (text, images)



Requiem - left to right: Sergej Skofljanec - vocals; Marc Kavas­ - lead guitar; Damjan Brezovec - drums; Marko Slokar - rhythm guitar (front); Giovanni Kavas­ - bass


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