Alcest just released their new album and now they are on tour with The Vision Bleak, they had a show in Essen schedule and so I took the chance to talk to Alcest mastermind Neige. During the interview Fursy of Les Discrets and tour bassist of Alcest joined us and later - after Neige had to leave - I talked a bit with Fursy about his band.
When you first started the band, it was more a different kind of music, more black metal kind of stuff. The last two albums are more like soundscapes, very colorful in a way, but different from the first one. It was more like... a bit lighter, and for me it's more like more greenish album, while the new one is more like darker blue... It's like a stormy sea. And because the colors are visualizing the sound: Do you have colors in your mind when you write music? Do you feel the colors when you hear music also?
Neige: Yes, you know, I am not only doing music. For me all the visual effects are very, very important. Now the visual, the music, and the lyrics are making what this Alcest is. Yes, I'm trying to do paintings, draw landscapes and sceneries with the music.
I know that there are some composers who have a color for every note they do.
Neige: It's like a general color for all the tones. Dark blue, purple, generally it's dark blue.
Yeah, for me it was like a winter day when the sea is dark and rough, sometimes there is a moment of light and it comes back with force, and it's like a kind of image to me. The Solar Song is smooth and slower. It's like the dark, like a winter day at sea, and there is one ray of light. It sticks out a bit!
Neige: Because, you know, otherwise the album would have been too dark and too certain. So I put the Solar Song in the middle to have a kind of break.
Like the warming sun ray.
Neige: It's like being at the sea during a very hot summer day and everything is okay, the sky is blue, a pure feeling of joy and happiness.
You also talked about visual concept and lyrics, I think it's not that easy to transport that on stage. How do you try to solve this problem?
Neige: On stage I'm absolutely not thinking about my universe. I'm just trying not to making mistakes. I just try to make a good show. I don't have my universe with me when I play. It's our fourth concert, our first tour, it is very good, and we are very happy to do this. The songs are more interesting on stage.
It's more emotional, because of it's live atmosphere and so gives it a different feeling.
Neige: It's a bit more entertaining to be in a live situation, more cool and different from studio life.
When you do the album, you do your thing, and when you play concerts you bring other people in, a circle of friends, you are all friends! I think that's what makes it a little easier, if you work with friends....
Neige: Yeah, on stage there is always something that goes wrong: I don't hear myself, I hear too much drums....
Well, that ain't the fun part of being on stage, but part of playing live.
Neige: I'm a perfectionist. It's hard to get used to the situation, and when I make a mistake I tell myself to go on and do better.
I think, that usually the audience don't care so much about mistakes.
Fursy: I think there are two ways: The audience don't hear the mistakes or they don't care. They come to see us live.
It's live, and there are always a chance that there is a mistake, it's just human. You never know, if everything works out. You always move on, play new songs. There is always a possibility to do something wrong, if you do something new. If you do a song for 20 years you probably don't make a mistake anymore, because it's in your blood. I think it changes a bit. I think, it's a challenge for you to go on tour. The public is quite inspiring. You also get a lot inspired by everything around you in a way, daily life etc.
Neige: Everything that happens... I'm with my best friends, and so it's only positive energy.
It's good, it's not always that way. So you're lucky. It's good for a start. When you're doing the first tour, you're more nervous and tense, so everything goes more smoothly and makes it easier for you.
So, about the artwork for the album. It's blue like the album. Did you have an idea how it should look like, or did you do what you think was fitting?
Neige: I had a very good idea what I wanted with the character and the moon to do it in a perfect way, great decoration. Yes, I had an image for it. Everybody thought it was incredible.
It is Art Nouveau-like...
Fursy: When I did the work I had some references to make shades.
For most music and art isn't deeply connected. Your's is more visualizing, like with a photobook. You are one of the few writers who do something like that.
In these days for many people the music don't have so much value anymore, because you can download it. 20 years ago you had vinyl, you could have it in your hands and not like a file on your computer. This is something that shows people the value of music more. It's a good way to catch the interest of people to buy it instead of having a file on their computer, MP3 players and stuff like that.
It took you 3 years to make the album. It's a pity, if people don't appreciate it.
Neige: You know, as an artist you don't play guitar and compose a song in 5 minutes. It is very hard work. It takes energy to make a beautiful artwork like that.
In a way there was always an exchange. These days it is easier to make copies and to send it by mail. And to many people it don't have value anymore, if you don't see it, you don't feel it.
Fursy: People must see that it is important that the music gives praise to the guy, but people don't understand how much time it takes to do recording, rehearsing, editing, make artwork. It's crazy. It's just crazy!
You must have a lot of passion to do that, otherwise nobody would do it. If it's not for the money, there are just a very few bands who really make money. For everybody else it's more about the passion, the passion of art. Somehow it looks like there are more French bands coming up, who don't really follow a trend. More unique bands. Is it the French nature?
Neige: Maybe they have another artistic background that is important for them. I always want to read books, go to museums, watch movies. I don't like fast food. It's like McDonalds, you can get it everywhere. We are not the kind of guys who watch Simpsons.
In a way French movies always stick out against other nations. If you like, there is some unique thing about France.
Neige: The French cinema is famous. I like to go to the cinema and watch French movies.
In Germany we don't have much unique films - in that way. Would you like to do a soundtrack for a movie?
Neige: I would love it. That is my dream, because I love cinema, I have it in my head, and if someone ask me to do a song for a movie, I will do it for sure. There is one track on the new album, the last track, that is really cinema-like to me.
You did also a short film?
Neige: Yes, it is an animated movie.
So for you it is connected to visualizing things. Did you had it in mind already when you wrote the music? Do you have the movie and see what musically fits?
Neige: Actually, for me the possibility to think about music for a video, it will be my video and my music.
Sometimes you start with the music, and you have an idea. Or sometimes you have the picture first?
Neige: Of course I have the music first and then I produce what I like.
Fursy, you are lucky that you can draw it. You don't have to find somebody doing it for you.
Fursy: We started together with our music, discovered and developed together, almost as if we were brothers. You know somebody so well... We spent long time together. Even now we are on tour together.
You target the same fans. Prophecy Production is a small company, two promotion compaigns in one, same target group.
Fursy: That's what they are doing for our album. It's a good job, all information at one page.
You have already played a couple of shows, even if it is your first tour. It went very well so far. What's coming next? After the tour? Do you go back on tour or do you go back to composing? I know, it's always about offers, if you can go on tour!
Neige: I'm really wanting to compose again. I feel that I have new ideas, and if I don't compose for a few months, it will go slower for me. We go to the USA now, so it has to wait, but I'm really excited to compose again and spread artistic songs. I have my vision and I want to spread it.
Good, because a lot of people are getting influence by 'fast food music'.
Neige: I know, what I am doing and why I am doing this.
Fursy: A lot of bands are making 'fast food music' because of their contracts.
Sometimes they are taking the easiest way. If you follow the trends, there is a chance for touring and selling CDs - instead of going your own way.
Fursy: Easy doesn't work. They, our label, like new ideas and are open-minded. You can always, come with ideas for the second or third album. They told us what they think about it, but they don't want us to change anything. And we are not forced to compose quickly. We can take 5 or 10 years or a few months, it depends....
They just have to plan the release. Their only limit is in the material. We talked a lot about it. You can do it this way or that way.
It is quite interesting that there are so many fields you can work with, getting new music and everything.
Fursy: I think, I will not bring my projects to a big stage, it will be just for the pleasure. It's not about money. I have my job, my work and running designs, that is perfect for me. My music, it's just my vision. Nobody can tell me it's just for money. It will be forever fun.
A lot of bands kill themselves by getting forced to keeping a schedule and make albums at a certain time.
Neige: They never ask themselves, why aren't you change it and take a risk.
Sometimes they are afraid that people don't want to hear it or don't like it.
Neige: I mean, we are making art. We are making art, but some are doing business. They say we are making art, but they have to prove it. It's plastic and shit, I hate it.
It's more the quantity they bring out, than the quality.
Neige: The same songs, the same covers, I don't know what else.
Instead of one band that play just to make money. That was never the purpose of making art, to make money. The best art comes from people who don't care about money.
Neige: That remains, if you look backwards. If you are really famous and are not owing any money, then it's a really tool.
If you take Mozart... Even if he was famous in his days, compared to others, he wasn't been that rich.
... time for Neige to leave us. So I continued to talk with Fursy about his band Les Discrets - and more.
You are a kind of universal artist, like visualizing and animate music. Is there any kind of art you would like to explore which you haven't done? Orchestrating? Or painting something or that kind of direction?
Fursy: I think I will do music. Now I'm not talented and not made for this, but I would like to try and make a real film. I think there are two different ways to make a film, because what you are making in an animated film... If you just translate it into a film, sometimes it can be really cliche. You know, to change a little bit, express the feelings. So I don't really know if I would be talented in a live action. I'm not really interested in animated film. I'm not going to see any animated films in the cinema. I'm just watching live action, that's all.
I mean, it's two different worlds in a way. It's interesting to watch both, but you don't have to get involved in them both. You were involved in other bands before you started your own projects. What's the idea behind Les Discrets?
Fursy: One of us playing for Phest, my first band. We were actually going in a certain direction for the music, and I composed some melodies and riffs besides the band. That's why they aren't really fitting to what we were doing in Phest. I decided to play these songs for me. I didn't know for which project, it was just for me, because they make sense for me, I like them. I didn't want to use them for Phest, maybe they were too personal, I don't know. When we finished the band in 2008-2009, I come to compose a lot of music, and I wanted to make another album.
Just a collection of music from the years.
Fursy: Yes, definitely a collection. I got everything which was connected to my state of mind.
So it was kind of snapshots from that time?
Fursy: Exactly, and that's why on the art book one song is one image.
To give people an idea about the time line, so what is generally inspiring you to write music?
Fursy: I think the most important inspiration is the concept of the album. I'm inspired by love and death and nature. I'm trying with my songs to reproduce landscapes, like in a film. With different scenarios, actions, feelings. My songs in the album are made like a film, with an intro and outro. The mood of the songs improves when the album plays.
A sonic world, create something like that...
Fursy: One of the guys who plays with us told me it's like cinema. That is the essence of it.
The soundscapes: the landscapes and the soundscapes. You mentioned different kind of times when you wrote it. Snapshots.. like wandering through a sonic world. It changes a bit from one song to another, to be on a journey in a sonic world.
Fursy: I'm inspired by the feeling of love and the state of mind, and the confidence that it gives to you. You can take it on your own, but also through someone else, really different. The connection is just made by the brain, and your body fitted into it. Including this version of love there is death too. The fact that death can stop this. My point of view is that there is a kind of life after death. That's what I'm telling about in my animated film which is in the art book. In this afterlife, it is a way for me to accept that some day I will die, and my girlfriend will die and I don't want to think that we will never meet again. So maybe I am trusting in a kind of second life just to feel comfortable, to think that there is some kind of heaven or another form of life in which we will be together. Love is stronger than death. That is exactly what I'm trying to say.
Also that is an expression to say that someone dies in a moment, nobody thinks of that person anymore. So as long as you think about someone you love, he / she is kind of alive, at the moment nobody thinks of that person, he / she is dead, because the memory of him / her is lost.
Fursy: I read a book called The Gates Of Hell. The name is really cliche, but this story is about a father who is going into hell to get his son who died too early for no reason. He actually accept to die, if his son could live again. It's really a beautiful book. It's not cliche at all, just because the name is really horrible.
There are some books that are kind of cliche, but from the beauty of the language, like a lot of stuff that Shakespeare wrote is a bit of cliche, but still the way he wrote it made it kind of beautiful.
So that's how you use the language. There can be something very simple that is beautiful, and something very complicated can have an interesting story to tell.
Fursy: But I think, that if you are thinking about love, if you read it first, then it looks and sounds honest. So you won't try to make beautiful sentence. It will just come out naturally and so it will make sense and is beautiful. I think it is just natural to be honest.
It's outstanding, if it speaks from the heart, that's the point. Everything you do, if you do it because you feel it, if it comes from deep inside of you, then it doesn't matter, if everybody feels the same or likes it. Then it is something unique, because it's something important to you, and probably everybody is getting it. It persuades much more people to go different ways, to try something new, to do what they really want to do, not only follow a trend.
Fursy: I think that is the only way something can work.
It's also why I think it's a pity that music fans just go for English music, because it's pretty often that a song gets more intense, if it is in the mother tongue of whoever wrote it. It doesn't matter if it's French or Italian. I had an album, about 10 years ago from a Turkish band, and they did a version with English lyrics and Turkish lyrics. The Turkish album is more intense and has more feeling into it. I think it's a pity that fans often reject something because of the language. I know, that I saw something about your album where someone had a problem with the language... Saying people might not accept it. But one should take the chance and discover it.
Fursy: I agree.
I think it's great, because it fits. The language fits exactly to the music.
Fursy: Anyway, I think my music is made of my culture, my country for different reasons. I work, speaking French, reading French, so it doesn't make sense to me to write in English. It's just impersonal for me. English is just a business language for me. For some people it is okay, they are writing beautiful things, but for me it isn't natural. I can't tell everything I want the way I want in English. In French I read some reviews in which people talk about CDs or lyrics or whatever.
For me, I don't speak French... If I don't understand the lyrics, it's more about the feeling then to know exactly what the lyrics say, if you look at English songs, a lot of the lyrics are shitty.
Fursy: If I work in English, I won't do it spontaneously. Even in French you have to be focused on singing and the riff and beyond that you should control your accent and to think about speaking English. There would be so many things.
I think that is the problem with a lot of music that everybody try to do everything in English. They should probably more often take the risk and use their own language.
Fursy: I know a group from Romania, they sings in Romanian language, and that's the main part of the musical identity, because their lyrics are mystical. It really fits the music of the album, the mood, what they are trying to say. In English it would have been so different.
It makes everything sound the same in a way. But at least some people do their own things and stand up against it, and that's good.
Thank you, I hope to see you again - perhaps with your own music on stage one day -, if you feel like that, maybe you'll go on tour some day.
Fursy: I have some plans of that and playing with other bands, already made contacts about making a tour. I just need to wait for my second album to be released, because I don't have enough songs. Okay, I have enough songs, but I want people to know them before touring.
Especially if they don't understand the words from the lyrics, better that they have looked at it before, to get into the flow of the concert.
Fursy: I think my music will fit really well. because it's really powerful and a little epic sometimes, and also very atmospheric. I think, I will work on a concept for the shows, with video on the show, animated film.
So you have time to work on that before you have the second album out?
Fursy: Yes, I will be able to make a video with the album and DVD, and to keep on making the album. For each album I would like to make everything all the time, visualizing etc. But usually I don't like to play my own music on my films, because it's too much of me. If the music in the film is not your own, it is more interesting, it gives it another meaning, and that's what I do on my first animated film. I started to compose music, to record it, and it was a good and nice film. I asked someone to compose the music and perform it. They did it, and I put it on the video and got the film. If everything is going in the same way, it's not interesting.
Sometimes you get some influence when the music comes from the outside, it gives you a certain point of view from another angle. Sometimes you can do a photo of one thing, it depends on what angle you look at it.
Fursy: People talk about new ideas and mostly when you make film, you don't have any distance, because you are working on it 8, 9 or 10 months or 2 years. So I think it is really important to trust someone and to give them the freedom to make the music, because they can understand moments in the film, maybe you feel it's sad, but the guy won't feel it's sad, he will play music and act on it and it will be even stronger. It will create something that you couldn't create yourself, because you are into your vision and focused on your emotions.
Some bands should use a producer from the outside, because they need someone else's inspiration. Some people work perfectly on their own, but others would need some outsider to add something and make it more interesting.
Okay, thank you very much! Hope to see you again - and to continue this conversation!