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Webzine dedicated to the metal band fronted by girls. We also like ambient,darkwave,rock & electronic music.
Interview by Miriam C.
If the first interview was a sort of an exclusive, the second one is a confirmation of what’s happened and to get some updates. So in the first episode we left you with an establishment of a label, now we see the album officially released… well, you want to know how the tale ends (or what’s the next projects) just read the interview below with the factotum Tom Simonsen.
Hi Tom, first of all thanks again for this interview and sorry for the delay. As promised time ago, I’m here to asking you the last updates about Omit. For the rest how are you??
Thank you, Miriam! I’m doing great! I hope you are doing fantastic! And don’t worry about the delay. We didn’t have time to write down our answers until now. Better late than never, hopefully. And, as you know, we’ve been working quite a lot on promoting the release of the new Havnatt EP. We’re also quite busy writing and recording new Havnatt material, at the moment, for what’s going to become a full length album. Maybe this new album will see its release this year. Right now, it’s a bit too early to tell, but we certainly hope to be able to release it that soon.
We left us with the upcoming release of Omit and the project of a indipendent/self managed label and for what I see you manage to accomplish both goals. But let’s do a step back, when you have got the idea to create a self managed label? It was like the final solution for publish your music or a way to manage your music as you like it? When have seen that there’s no solution that to found your label?
Well, it wasn’t a last resort. The idea of becoming more independent as musicians has always been lingering in the back of our minds. We just got fed up with the all the evil record contracts we were reading and wasting our time reading. You know, it seems that there is a consensus out there - among all the labels - that when you want to sign a new artist you start the contract negotiation process by showing the artist the bend-over-version of the contract. And If you’re lucky - from the label’s perspective that is - the artist is a real sucker and signs this version of the contract. As a label you now own the artists very name and the rights to everything the artist will ever produce in any context for as long as it’s legally possible. This is what all labels hope for, of course. Otherwise, they would be offering you more decent terms to begin with. They want to rip you off, basically, and it’s obvious if you read these contracts. And that’s a great starting point for a business relationship, don’t you think? And finally, it was this process of getting a reasonable deal for Omit that really pushed us into seriously thinking about starting our own label. We wasted about one whole year trying to reduce the bend-over-factor of various record contracts, but the record companies would not let us own the rights to our own music. And that was it, you know. It was impossible to come to an agreement. And shortly thereafter we started setting up Secret Quarters. At this point we felt that we had wasted enough time and it was about time to just get the music out, you know.
The name that you have chosen for the label is Secret Quarters. Curious name, from where you got the inspiration? You have in project to sing more bands of the same musical field? And if not, why?
I always used the words “secret quarters” to refer to various rehearsal facilities or studios that we’ve been using over the years. It’s sort of become a term for that nondescript location where we make our music. The location isn’t important, you know, it’s the music being made there that’s important. So, why not use those words to name the label as well. You know, in a similar way, the label is just a vehicle through which the music is being made available.
Since I’m really curious and forgive me for this but I would like to know what’s behind a CD and its costs? I’m meaning the press and things like that. When a band decide to self publish an album what’s the costs that have to burden?
Well, I really don’t want to go into too many details of the cost of our own productions. But we are very fortunate, as we’re able to do almost everything ourselves. And we keep the costs relatively low that way. We own our own studio equipment, we have several locations - or “secret quarters” - where music can be rehearsed and recorded, and we do all the recording, mixing and mastering ourselves. If you have to pay by the hour in a hired studio the costs run high very quickly. And the costs for doing the mastering can be really silly, to be honest. That whole thing has become very overpriced. And then there’s the hiring of other musicians, like we did for the “Repose” album. It too has a cost, of course. And so has the printing, pressing and manufacturing of the physical product - CDs or vinyl or what have you. Vinyl production in particular can be quite expensive if you want to make a quality product, so we’ve decided to put that off until a later time. Digital distribution, however, has almost no costs associated with it, except for the fees that go to iTunes, CD Baby, Spotify or any of those other ones, but that’s more on a sale-by-sale basis. So, basically, if you do everything or almost everything yourself, then releasing your own recordings doesn’t have to cost so much. If you go for a digital distribution only kind-of-a-deal then the costs are very low indeed. If you’re not put off by the increase in paperwork, by the fact that you have to make sure that the releases get promoted or by the business stuff you have to deal with, then I would recommend going DIY to any musician. You don’t have to deal with evil labels or record company people. In the DIY musician’s case, the record label is the musician, and the record label really only exists in people’s imagination..
After this 2 questions about your genesis’s label now I want to focus on Omit. How it was the media reception, I mean did the press liked the album?
The press seemed to like it. The number of positive reviews was almost a bit overwhelming.
Back in the last interview I’ve noticed reading now that I’ve forgotten to ask you, a curiosity of mine about the title,“Repose”, is connected with the lyrics inside or you feel it’s the right word for the platter? Just your opinion….
I think the name just sets the right mood for the album as a whole, you know.
Also we must update the infos about your other projects. Any updates to add for Havnatt and Vagrant God? And we must not to forget Skumring, Glade, Dooms Vain and Vali…
Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about almost every project that you mentioned there. And we’ll do it in the order you that mentioned them. Regarding Havnatt: Great to finally be able to properly release the “Havdøgn” EP. I think a half hour of music is a very, very good EP length, and the material deserved to get the proper release treatment and become available to everyone in better audio quality than previously. Now, we’re working on the follow-up release. This time it’s a full length album. How long it will end up being is still too soon to tell. And regarding Vagrant God: The long, long overdue release of the Vagrant God album will be happening this year. And regarding Skumring: We’re still waiting for Vàli to get all the writing done for his new album. He has told us that he doesn’t want to work on two albums simultaneously. And we respect that. We’ve got plenty of other things to do, so we’re not waiting idly for him, you know. And then there’s Glade: Well. Glade was an experiment and we uploaded some preliminary drafts and mixes to the web. We’ve done various other experiments too, that have never made it to the web. Glade was just one of those who did. There are others out there also, that you may try to find, if you’re able. However, regarding Glade, I don’t think there will be any new music written for Glade. You never know, of course, but I seriously doubt it. And finally there’s Vàli: Vàli started writing music for his upcoming album many, many years ago. I took on the job of recording and producing this album about three years ago, now. At that point recordings had already been made in a different studio. We basically started by throwing all those old recordings out and starting again from scratch. After that, we’ve had lots and lots of sessions in the Secret Quarters studio, but I would almost go so far as to say that none of the tracks have been completed this far. He’s still writing new stuff and putting new stuff in. So, at this point there’s no telling. It’ll be done when it’s done, I suppose.
Kjetil, in a recent interview, stated (and I quoth) about a second Omit album “We will eventually begin the writing process for our sophomore album, which is probably taking a more neo-classical turn. We shall see”. In my order of ideas, if Omit should write a neoclassical album should create another different music project for not “confuse” the music genre, hahaha. Back to be serious, I think it’s a great idea, I love neoclassical music and I’m really really looking forward to this album. How you are approching to the writing of this second Omit release?
To be honest, we don’t really have a defined approach or a method that we use in order to make music. It just happens the way it has to. We write what we want when we want, and eventually the music comes together to form “an album”. Our way of writing metal or guitar-based music may differ a bit from how I can imagine that other metal bands come up with their stuff. We don’t necessarily start with the typical guitar riffs and build things around those.
Now speaking of priorities, what’s next?
Next we’re going to write more music! That’s the focus for me, anyway.)
Never thought to play some gigs? Or book a complete tour?
The focus right now is on writing, recording and releasing new music. Rehearsing and gigging just takes a lot of time away from that, and sometimes it costs a lot more than what you get in return. It just isn’t a priority right now. With Omit, especially, it would be a rather huge undertaking. We don’t really want to put any of the instruments on playback, and we really don’t want to cut down on the arrangements too much. To make it work we’d have to be roughly 15 people on stage, preferably more than that. We wouldn’t really be able to perform on the smaller club stages with a band like that. And that makes putting a tour together rather difficult.
For the moment that’s it, I really thank you again for the avalaibility, it really means a lot for me. I think we will speak soon for Havnatt. Lots of love and the best. Again thanks.
Thanks, Miriam! Always a pleasure.
Interview by Ed MacLaren
Boasting a heavy progressive metal sound, France’s Devious eXperiment of Synthesthesis – or DXS –immerses us in a dark apocalyptic world with their debut album “Cathar5y5”. But the devastation on this impressive concept album is not of nuclear holocaust or war spinning out of control: the destruction takes place deep with the recesses of the mind. Vocalist Alienor Colin took some time to discuss with Femme Metal the foundation of “Cathar5y5” and some of its deeper meanings.
“Cathar5y5” is a seriously awesome debut. You’re treading in some serious concept album territory though – we’re talking major Ayreon, Queensryche sci-fi stuff here. Give us a little background on the story of “Cathar5y5” and how it evolved?
Well, first of all, thank you for the compliment. As for the story, Jean-Michel, our keyboards player, laid its foundation, drawing his inspiration from events that happened in his own life to create a fiction based on people’s psychology and their ability, not to say their need, to develop their own torments. Then we worked on these themes to harmonize them with our musical needs!!! I’d like to remind you that “Cathar5y5” was first “born” in a futuristic fictional world, in which a free from physical sufferings man, particularly thanks to pharmaceutical and genetic progress, will more than ever enjoy psychological torments (romantic philosophy).
“Cathar5y5” makes some bold philosophical points over the course of the album – most prevalent the disruption of natural order through scientific manipulation. It’s interesting that in “Cathar5y5” as mankind masters its external environment through the eradication of disease it loses control of its internal mental mechanisms. What is the connection you’re trying to draw here?
We can see through that inevitability, a mere irony of fate, that despite the Cartesian aspect “Cathar5y5” takes advantage of, remains a notion that governs our world in a cruel manner.
The “Cathar5y5” vaccine provides an artificial self-actualization in response to society’s desire for instant gratification in all areas of life. Will this ultimately always fail?
The Cathar5y5 world had to be plausible indeed, but by definition, a totally imaginary futuristic fiction. Even though the concept origins lie in many winks, we never wanted to transfer the ins and outs of the story to the futuristic or contemporary real world. The script was to end badly to show the whole tragic and therefore “metal” extent of the album form and content! Our music is meant to naturally be in minor keys, dark and melancholic!
The people in Cathar5y5 strive for peace and perfection but actually enjoy the suffering they endure. Is it that the reach for the unattainable always comes with pain and hardship?
Human nature has always wanted to be equal to the Creator, perhaps out of vanity and therefore to reach perfection. However in Cathar5y5, the question is about controlling rather than reaching perfection. Nevertheless, if there was a message to learn, it would be the contradictory and perverted necessity for man to endure suffering! Here indeed, as he is deprived of physical sufferings, he develops new mental torments, which are the subjects of each song. So Cathar5y5 does take its essence in the romantic philosophy.
Is there a biblical allegory in Cathar5y5? Man strives for perfection through its faith in false idols (or corporations) instead of God and suffers the ultimate consequence?
There are some biblical hints in the script, in particular the seven vaccines and the seven diseases that echo the seven seals of the Apocalypse, however the ultimate punishment that ends this fiction doesn’t really embody anything allegorically biblical but merely tragic.
“Cathar5y5 ” highlights a bleak world-view. Do you think humankind is in a downward spiral of self-destruction? Can we do anything to change it?
The album indeed develops a rather pessimistic vision, perhaps simply to match the traditional aesthetics of metal music we’ve heard so much about lately (Hellfest). Nevertheless, we must confess and note that the members of the group ceased believing in “man’s nobility”. Fortunately, fantastic people are still to be discovered in our world that are worth forgetting the rest!
Why did you decide to tackle something so conceptually intense for your debut?
That’s not an easy question. Let’s say that, even though it’s a debut, it is a project into which we wanted to put ourselves totally and show a great maturity to compensate for its status as a “first album”. And also, the making of a universe for a group seems to me an essential matter that helps musical, visual and textual cohesion.
How directly is DXS invested into the “Cathar5y5” storyline? Will future releases continue to be extensions of the Cathar5y5 concept?
The story of Cathar5y5 remains a fiction as a source of inspiration for this first opus; we have already started working on the second album that should offer a different concept, still based on an imaginary script!
A great story and lyrics are a big part of a great album but you need to back it up with a strong musical foundation. DXS has the musical skill to really bring the concept and lyrics alive. Was the music written to match the concept or did the music come first?
Thanks again! Well, I don’t really remember whether we had already written some lyrics before completing the concept album, however some songs like “Mirror of Terror” or “Catharsis” obviously showed from the composition a schizophrenic will through the elaboration of their asymmetric riffs or of their structures. Other tracks inspired themes matching the concept but peculiar to the universe about them, for example “Nocturnal Phobia”.
DXS displays some serious prog chops with some great riffing that match perfectly the tone of the story. How difficult was it to conceptualize the music to fit around the story?
This was done fairly naturally because, through the colour we wished to give to the album and the concept that was written in order to never betray that will of darkness, we all were in a very special state of mind during the stages of difficult composition!
Your vocals really stand out on “Cathar5y5”. Your singing is strong with a beautiful tone that drives the music forward. Did you experiment with your technique to get the right vocal feel for each track?
Thank you! Generally and also to face the other productions, progressive music leaves little place for singing; however as a singer I have more freedom than my fellow instrumentalists. I must confess that once the musical parts are ready I can quite intuitively and easily compose my vocals. What takes me more time is to find the right vocal feel for each theme. And I’m not used to always singing the same thing! The vocal parts evolved as the pre-productions and also as the recordings progressed thanks to the advice of the sound team I worked with!
Alexandre Ardisson’s grunts are excellent but you also brought in some guest vocalists for “Cathar5y5”. How did you get Clément Marse of Continuum and Julien Leon of Darkenhold involved in the project?
It happened quite naturally. Clément is a long time friend who sings in another prog music group Continuum and we have played some dates with them. We really needed a particular male voice to punctuate “Amnesia” and we are fond of sharing our musical trips with our close musician friends. The same thing with Julien Leon alias Cervantes. Alexandre is also Darkenhold’s bass player and we are all very close friends of Julien, who is quite an interesting person, humanly speaking! “Psychotic Depression” is a very dark song and we wanted a very strong and typically “black” voice to confront the lead vocals!
What were the influences and inspirations that fed “Cathar5y5”? DXS seems like it would have many other influences other than music though…literature and film?
From a musical point of view, with a concern for originality, we give a great importance to combinations at the same time: prog with Andromeda and Dream Theater; black/death with Dimmu Borgir and Ihsahn; and symphonic with Symphony X, Revamp and After Forever! As I said before, the concept album was widely inspired from the Romantic philosophy.
Finally, several members of the band are students in audiovisual courses and all of us are widely influenced by cinema: as an example, the lyrics of “Mirror of Terror” are a tribute to David Lynch’s Lost Highway.
We have to talk about the band name: Devious eXperiment of Synthesthesis. It’s a bit of a mouthful. Can you explain the origination of the name, especially the Synthesthesis part?
Let’s say that in a way, we adapted the definition of “synesthésie” (synesthesia in English), a mental pathology consisting of the association of two senses like sight and hearing and that’s exactly what we wanted to translate – that is to say music and colour, especially from a harmonic point of view, which is not always easy thing to do… and we must also confess that we wished we had a much longer name than our friends in Spheric Universe Experience, who by the way, asked me to sing on one of their songs “White Willow” during the recording of their last album.
Are you planning on touring and showcasing “Cathar5y5” a la Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime?
It’s really difficult to find dates in the metal circle, especially with a first album. However, we should work on a tour project by the end of 2011!
(Famous) Last words?
Describing the world of DXS is not an easy thing to do. I do hope that, thanks to our answers, you’ll fancy having a look at our MySpace and giving “Cathar5y5” a listen.