The Dragon Flies Again

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One of those “old and forgotten Eastern European jewels“ that I Hate Records has been mining as of late, the rediscovered, repackaged, and reissued Let Draka/Flight of the Dragon from the Czech Republic’s Drakar nearly defies classication. Progressive thrash? Sort of. Quirky metal? You’ve just gotten in warmer. Creative music? Let’s go with that one. Vocalist/guitarist, founder, and visionary Ivan Sekyra takes us back to beginning, moves us through the middle, fast forwards to 2011 and tells the tale of a small Swedish label reissuing a little known album – in two-disc format for English and Czech speakers alike – from a killer cult Czech band . Read on; you just might learn something.

In the excellent liner notes of I Hate’s reissue of Let Draka/Flight of the Dragon, it is stated that guitarist Ivan Sekya founded the band in 1988 “during his quest for new attitudes and a new direction for heavy metal music.” What was it that you found dissatisfying about the music of that period and what style did your previous bands Abraam, Abraxas, and Projektil play?

Abraam was the band of my youth and we were quite deep into psychedelia and mysticism back then. Abraxas was almost famous Czech rock band; this time I lived in accordance with the motto “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.” Although my wild lifestyle went on also in Projektil, I already was much more focused on writing my music. The last recordings of Projektil became to be much harder. I can say it sounded like a pre-Drakar version. One fan said to me that our music reminded him of Bathory. Although our sound was of course different than Bathory, I felt that metal is the right way for me and I changed the name of the band, musicians, image, and all of that…

Also intriguing is that the band name Drakar relates to Sekya being born in the sign of the dragon, which (again according to the liner notes) “symbolized an adventurous journey beyond the horizons of the gray Communist reality that existed at the time.” What was it like being in a band during those times and did the communist government frown upon such activities?

Projektil was a band which had often had problems with the Communist authorities. I had to build it five times again because of this. It was a very depressive period. Fortunately, we were young and full of energy.

What led to Drakar splitting up?

Regarding Drakar´s break-up in the beginning of the 90s, people were less and less interested in metal and we started to play only small club gigs for a few fans. Simply, it was impossible to earn money for life through music. Later it started to be a bit better, but in these times that Drakar was almost forgotten. The first brief reunion of Drakar in the middle of 90s was not too well-done, even though there was created a few good songs.

What led to your 2008 comeback and ultimately I Hate Records’ release of Let Draka/Flight of the Dragon? Are you pleased with how it turned out?

The guys from I Hate liked our music and contacted me via one person here in Prague. I was very surprised, but of course pleasantly. There was no reason why [we shouldn’t] do it. Even though it took a bit more time than I expected, I am satisfied. It was a reason to build a band again at least.

Were there any problems in obtaining the “rights” to these songs or in assembling the reissue in general for whatever reason?

The former label ceased to exist a long time ago and rights to the music are mine; there was not any problems. More than rights there were complications with mastering. The Czech version is slightly different than the English one, but from the old recordings you cannot await miracles… But I like both; each has a different atmosphere.

So are you truly reunited in the sense that you might be playing some upcoming shows or releasing new material?

Firstly we wanted to support the CD re-release. I have to say, it was guite heavy to play songs from The Flight of the Dragon after all these years; it is not just easy music. But we slowly prepare a new material and some new songs already exist.

The music of Let Draka/Flight of the Dragon is truly unique and while there are certainly thrash elements (though more like something Voivoid might do), the arrangements are rather unconventional, yet not overcomplicated and melody is still present.   Talk about your musical influences in this regard and how others have described the music of Drakar.

I’ve always relied on the strongest musical motifs which I wrote. The music of Drakar is deliberately riddled with practices that are banned in classical music. There is important work with rhythms. None of the drummers wanted to play like that because they used to play different from it! But finally they understood. Although you may hear influences of bands that I liked, in the music of Drakar it is mainly my own sound and expression.

Even the vocals are rather unique, that kind of speak-sing, low register style, except for the more “traditional” style of singing on tracks like “Crazy Boy.” 

We could not find right singer, so I started to sing of necessity alone. A few people told me that I have an interesting timbre of voice, and so I tried to take advantage of it. The vocal should sound like when Big Brother speaks to you, a hundred times intensified. Simply, how I sing in “Kingdom of The Walls” – “Stay on your knees or I crash you with fear from ..!”

“Crazy Boy” stands out for the way that simple chorus worms its way into your brain! Why is it the only English title on the album?

Concerning “Crazy Boy,” it is an understandable international collection, so it was ok to use it even in the Czech version.

The guitar soloing on this album is fantastic and so full of energy and emotion. Some of it actually reminds me of the work of Toxik and Sadus. 

We jammed a lot together with second guitarist Martin. He is an excellent guitar player and he quickly understands difficult or unconventional parts. Our cooperation was great and besides technical playing we focused of course on a melody. Concerning the mentioned bands, if our riffs remind somebody Toxic or Sadus, hard to say, I am not deep into their music.

The reissue also comes with a second CD of the English version of the songs. Was this practice of releasing an English lyrics version really that common back then? Was it difficult to sing these songs in English when the ideas/patterns were originally conceived in the Czech language?

Lyric writer Vladimir Cort was also a translator of books from English, so we had full confidence in his professionalism. Czech and English lyrics are in some cases not identical but are very similar. Surprisingly, they are still current in some way in my opinion.
We recorded the English version because we wanted to play abroad. It was not so common to use your native language for singing abroad as today back then.

Did you notice if one version sold more than the other?

Hard to say. How I have mentioned, our former label doesn´t exist and we have never gotten some valid numbers of sales.

Are you surprised at all to see this music getting released in 2011? Did you ever think people would be interested in Drakar again?

Yes, I have to say, I am surprised. It never occurred to me that the dragon once again rose to fly, even though maybe I secretly hoped for it. Music is simply the most powerful art that exists. Nothing is better than when you are on stage and play great gig. Thank you for the inspiring questions and say hello to all our fans!




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