Theigns & Thralls with Kevin Ridley
Art: Renato Faccini
Theigns & Thralls is the brainchild of Skyclad’s singer/songwriter Kevin Ridley. Born during the covid lockdowns of 2020, it grew into a collaborative recording project involving twenty-five European musicians from bands such as Korpiklaani, Ensiferum, Cruachan, Waylander, Celtibeerian and Metal De Facto. A touring band of Kevin Ridley (Skyclad) – vocals/guitar, John Ryan (ex-Cruachan) – Violin/vocals, Dave Briggs (Waylander) guitar/whistles/vocals, Arjon Valk – bass, and Mike Verhof – drums, is now performing live across Europe.
As I am involved with other bands and projects, the music of Theigns & Thralls allows me to explore other areas of interest mainly related to history – that I might not do with other projects. It also allows me to record in a mixture of styles, acoustic tracks, folk or classical rock etc.
‘The Theigns & Thralls’ album was all about collaborations. It was recorded during the pandemic lockdown periods of 2020/21. This meant me getting in touch with friends and friends of friends via the internet and asking them to contribute parts for various songs. This was mainly for the instruments I don’t play – violin, accordion, hurdy-gurdy, etc. I started by writing all the songs, doing demo recordings, then replacing my guide tracks and adding additional ways to the songs before sending them all off to be mixed and mastered.
The lyrics for the Theigns & Thralls album are based on old poems, traditional songs, and historical fiction and have several ‘themes’. These can be serious and ‘humanist’ in nature – such as ‘Strive’, ‘Life Will Out’ and ‘The New Folk Devils’ – or about simple, fun things – such as ‘Drinking’, ‘Today We Get To Play’ and ‘Not Thru The Woods Yet’. So a mixture of party songs and songs offers a bit more to think about.
For Theigns & Thralls, this tends to be historical fiction, actual historical events, poetry, literature, traditional/folk songs, and old broadsheets. Anything from this list can inspire me to write songs.
I don’t think I have a ’fixation’ as such, but I like to think that I try to follow ‘humanist’ principles. For me, this includes things such as socialism and atheism – but not in an aggressive or militant way; it’s basically about ‘live and let live’ and, as the song ‘Strive’ says, ‘strive, but do no harm’.
My relationship with heavy metal started in the mid-1980s. I went to train as a sound engineer at Impulse Studios in Wallsend. This was the home of NWOBHM label Neat Records and, of course, Venom – who I worked with on several albums. From there, I became an in-house engineer at Lynx Studios in Newcastle and worked with many artists, including Skyclad. I eventually joined Skyclad and started touring as well as doing studio work.
Music can be more than ‘mere entertainment’ – but it doesn’t have to be. I think it can help bring people together from all walks of life and many different places and, in that sense, it can be a very special, highly significant or indeed a ‘spiritual’ experience. It can change people’s lives and help form lifelong relationships, and so on. It has certainly been central to my life since I was a teenager.