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Alcest

Line up:

Neige - Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Winterhalter - Drums
www.alcest-music.com
 

Just a little after their second show in Finland, for the promotion of the latest "Les voyages de l’âme", we found our way to the backstage at Tuska festival to interview Alcest. Neige and Winterhalter discussed with us about the latest releases, touring, composing songs, about the new album, and of course we couldn’t avoid talking about the inspirational sources of this awesome music. But have a look yourself at the outcome of this encounter in a rarely hot afternoon of this Finnish summer:

Marco: First of all congratulations for today’s show, because the crowd seemed to be really into it, and I think you enjoyed it as well.

Neige: Yes, it was a good show for us. All the audience was very attentive to what was going on, and there was a good atmosphere.
Winterhalter: And there was no technical problems.
N: Yeah, for me I had a small thing on my guitar, but I had fixed it.


M: Ok, and talking instead about the album… I often think about what I’ve heard once, which is the fact that the third album is the one that allows the band to really prove themselves, to show what they’ve got. And I think you passed this "test" with flying colors thanks to your "Les Voyages De L’Ame". Are you satisfied with how it turned out?

N: Yeah! For us, you know we had to do this album as a kind of a "frontier" album, between what we did before, and what we will do from now on. It’s a sort of transition, we had to do it. But from now things will be different.

M: And in 2011 you also re-recorded "Le Secret", so why did you decide to do that?

N: It’s because I really didn’t like the sound of the first version, it was really bad, and I was never able to listen to my own music because of it.
W: It was also sold out! So it was too expensive on the internet to find the album, because it was crazy!
N: Yeah, 100€ or something! It was limited, so instead of just re-releasing it, we wanted to re-record it, and to do a proper new version.


M: I see. And the EP contains also the song "Élévation", which is inspired by Baudelaire’s "Le Fleurs Du Mal". So I wanted to ask you how much did poetry and literature influence your education and personal growth.

N: Uhm… It’s just a few poets, it’s not really literature in general: Baudelaire, Verlaine, some romantic and decadent French poets… And Baudelaire is my favorite one, because he has written extremely mystical things, very uplifting, very spiritual, and at the same time very dirty and very dark. But I was more into the luminous side of it. This poem, "Élévation", is something I wish I could have written, it’s so perfect for Alcest!

M: Yes, I think it’s been a really good inspiration to many subsequent artist, a small milestone in French literature.

N: Yeah.

M: And thinking back now, would you have ever figured that you could come this far with the Alcest project, with already three albums released and a fourth one in the making?

N: Well, when I was 16-17 of course I would had never imagined to be here now, to have released three albums and so on. But you know, things go, and you even don’t realized it, they just go very fast, and now I’m here, about 10 years after, and it’s very good. We just started to make tours and live shows two years ago, and we are touring all the time now!

M: Yeah that seems indeed quite good. And you have stated in the past that Alcest is sort of the manifestation in form of music of your childhood dreams about this "surreal" world. How vivid is nowadays the memory of it? Because as time passes it must be harder and harder to remember that.

N: Yeah. As I use to tell, the more the time passes, the less I can remember easily these things. I was very young, and when I was 16-17-18, when I made "Le Secret" and "Souvenir…", this was very very present, and that’s why I like a lot these two albums, because they are really close to this vision. And now it’s a bit more far because I grew up and my memory is very bad, I tend to forget.

M: It’s becoming then more of a blurred vision?

N: Yeah. But I can never really forget, because it’s part of myself, it left something inside me. There is something very very deep, and I will always have this with me. Sometimes I can find ways to recall these memories, like when I’m in nature, sometimes in a very special place, I can have some "flashes" again.

M: Ok, and speaking of visions, would you think it would be possible to integrate the music with something more visual like a short movie for example? A bit like you have done with the "Autre Temps" video… And how would you represent those things in a sort of movie-like representation?

N: You know, if we had thousands and thousands of Euros, we could make something very close to what I have in my head. But we are not a very big band, so… maybe one day. But I’m pretty satisfied with our videos, so far. Because it’s not exactly what I have in mind, but it’s quite close. At least even if it’s not exactly the same it can somehow represent part of it, it can fit to show what’s the idea behind it.

M: I actually think both the song and video from "Autre Temps" are amazing, so… good job with that!

N: Thanks!

M: But can you tell us something about how the video was actually made?

N: It was made by a Parisian film-maker [Julien Marie]. We met him maybe two times, we spoke about the Alcest concept, and he understood it really easily. He had a group of people who worked with him, they were maybe five or six people, and he wrote all the synopsis and the story. I just gave him some clues, some "keys", and then he wrote the story.
When I was then on the making of the video, I was just a spectator, from the outside. And it was one of the most important events in the making of Alcest. To see all these people working for us, for Alcest, to make this vision concrete, was so beautiful!


M: Yes, it must be really satisfying.

N: Yeah, and then the video is really appreciated, it has a lot of views on YouTube. Yes, I am very satisfied!

[for reference we invite you to watch the official video at this link: Autre Temps]

M: And have you ever met instead with people that experienced something similar to that world you envisioned as a child?

N: In the beginning of Alcest it was difficult, there was like nobody. But since one or two years I receive maybe once every week mails from someone telling me "I have something similar". So it’s very very crazy because I have done interviews for about seven years now, and it took time for people to know that I was not speaking about forests, violence and hate… it took time!
It took maybe almost ten years. But now people know that I am not speaking about darkness, but it’s more about spirituality, and parallel dimensions and afterlife, or the possibility that when we are dead we go somewhere else. I received very touching testimonies from people.


M: It’s good that you get in touch with other people having similar experiences. But if we talk a little instead about touring… before coming back here in Finland you finally managed to get on the stage of Hellfest, which is the biggest "home festival" for you nowadays. I have been there last year and I think this year it became even bigger. What kind of feeling did you get from playing there and from the French audience?

N: I think it’s a very good festival, and it’s very good that in France we have this kind of festival, because in France metal is not like in Finland, it’s very small. So it’s good that one of the biggest festivals in Europe is now Hellfest in France. That I respect a lot. But it’s not for me. I’m not into these big festivals, it’s too big for me.
W: About the gig, I was sick, so for me it was not good! [laughs]


M: You have a point there! And then in September you also have this mini-tour in Japan. How is your music perceived in the "land of the rising Sun", and in Asia in general? I know you have been playing also in China in the past.

N: In Japan we still don’t know, because we never went there. But when we played in China, for 12 shows, it was awesome! It was really good.

M: And I think the Chinese metal scene must be really unknown to us western people.

N: Yeah, they don’t have YouTube, Facebook is forbidden…
W: It’s really new!
N: It’s very new for them, so they are twice happier to see a band coming from Europe. And even if I don’t consider us to play metal, they were still happy to see a different thing. And it was very funny because none of these guys were like us, with long hair, band t-shirts, and so on… They were just regular Chinese people, you know, with short hair, glasses, very nice and polite… Honestly, thinking about this now, it was my favorite tour ever! This Chinese tour. Now I realized that from the human point of view, and due to the fact it was very "exotic" for us, it was the best.


M: And I believe that Alcest is one of those bands that you have to see live at least once to actually grasp this nostalgic atmosphere of your music and its concept.

N: Yes.

M: While after your experiences with the previous bands you have played into, such as Mortifera, Peste Noire, Amesoeurs… What have those left in you, and so you think there is still something from there in your music?

N: From Peste Noire there is nothing, because I didn’t really compose anything, just one song, which is a thrash/death song, very… "anecdotic", but I don’t want to tell anything about this. For Amesoeurs, it was a very good experience, a very good band… I don’t know if it left something. It’s maybe my way of composing, if it’s in Amesoeurs or in Alcest is still my sensibility, so it doesn’t share so much. I just tried to adapt my style to a darker concept, to the city, darkness, depression…
W: Suffering.
N: Yeah, you know, Amesoeurs was really about the city. And in Alcest is very different.


M: But do you think that without playing first in those bands, your music with Alcest would still be the same?

N: I don’t know. I can’t tell, maybe not. [Winterhalter talks to him in French]
N: He says that in the new songs there is still something from Amesoeurs, but it’s just my "darker" side. My darker side sounds like Amesoeurs.

M: Maybe you should have some other project to let that side out.

N: I don’t know, I want to keep this for Alcest, I don’t want to lose my time.

M: Alright. Because I know you do have other projects, but you are not really doing anything except singing in there.

N: Yeah, I’m just singing there.

M: It must be more relaxed for you!

N: Yes, and it’s also very very dark [compared to Alcest].

M: What do you think then nowadays of the French underground scene?

N: We always had very good bands, no bands that are very famous, but they are still very good. Like Mütiilation… [me pointing at Winterhalter]

W: Les Discrets.
N: Yeah, but it’s a band of nowadays, it’s a great band of course! [laughs]
W: "Of course"!
N: Yeah! But you know, we have good bands outside metal as well, like Soror Dolorosa, Varsovie is very good as well… M83, which is a shoegaze band… Darvulia, black metal… But you know, one of my favorite bands is M83, it’s really good and it’s very big now, huge band, so famous, but it’s still very very good!
I think that in France we are not maybe the best country for music, but we have something special.

M: Ok, and then we will have to check out all the bands that you mentioned, at least the fans need to do that now! [YouTube, come on guys!] Changing topic, could you describe us the actual process of how do you create and compose your music?

N: Two things are very important for me: to be at home, and to have a nice view. That’s all I need. For example when I was in the countryside at my parents, I was in the basement and I just opened the windows, it was springtime, so I started playing music in front of my garden. You know, it’s very shitty, but it works! [laughs]

M: Well it seems a really good idea actually!

N: And then when it’s done I go to his house [poins at W.], we work on the drums…
W: The structure and everything…
N: Yeah.


M: I think it probably really helps to have better inspiration to be there and play without nobody around.

N: I’m very simple, I just need silence and to be tranquil. I don’t need candles, like to have ceremonies or something! [laughs]

M: And I think you have been working already on some new material.

N: Yeah, I have a lot of new songs.

M: And in what direction do you think your sound will be going to in the new album, will it be similar to the latest one or…?

N: It will be more like the previous Alcest stuff. Very very atmospheric and dreamy, not metal anymore. No double kick, no blast beats, nothing. No screams…

M: Ok, so that nobody confuses you with black metal anymore!

N: Oh yeah, that’s already finished. At least for now. But the next album is going to be very different. I’m really curious to know what people will think about it!

M: Do you already have some specific ideas in mind?

N: I have plenty of songs already finished.

M: Can you tease us a little bit more?

N: Just that the album will be recorded early next year, probably in the Sigur Rós Studio [Icelandic post-rock/ambient band]…
W: There will be some guest.
N: Yeah, there will be some very very interesting special guests, two guests. I will not tell you who but it’s not from metal anyway. Yeah, it will be something different.


M: Ok, cool. So one last thing, is it difficult to handle a band like Alcest by yourself?

N: The only thing I do nowadays by myself is composing, and all the rest is done with our drummer… So the only thing I have to do still is to make the music.

M: Then let’s turn the question towards him: is it stressful to be in a band with this other guy?

W: [laughs] Sometimes! It’s difficult sometimes to know what he wants, for the drums and everything. But after, for the technical parts all the live members are working together, so it’s easier for Neige to compose.
N: You know, the most stressful part for my bandmates, I guess it’s maybe more to plan all the travels and all these things. Because for me I put the stress on the music, I want to make very good music, and I don’t care too much about contracts, traveling to the concerts… so I focus on the music, Jean [Deflandre, Winterhalter] is very good with all the technical stuff, and Pierre, the guitar player, is also very into the more "down to earth" things. It’s very good because if I was alone I would be like
[add "dead"-noise here] I’d be lost because I’m really bad for all these things, I’m just a riffing machine, I don’t do anything else! [laughs]

M: Alright! I have no other questions, so if there is something that you feel we left out, otherwise we are done!

N: For me no, I think it’s ok.
W: It was good to return again in Finland!
N: Oh yeah, it was really good to play again in Finland, and I think I have met you [yes you did!] I know you! you were in the concert.


M: Yes in Kuudes Linja two years ago.

W: As Neige said is very good to be here, I like this country, and is good to be here in Tuska, it’s a good festival. It was good for us.

M: And it was a good show!

W: Oh thank you, did you enjoy it?
N: Did you have some feedback from people?


M: Well, I’ve seen people really into the show going crazy for it, so I think that’s enough feedback!

Intervista di  Marco Manzi

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