Stellar Dream Storm & Witch Esoterica
Story online since: 24.07.2008 / 17:41:25
One of the most recently rising, brightest shining Daemon Stars of the night sky of the proverbially non-existent avant-garde metal scene is, without a doubt, the enigmatic Francophone power-trio SMOHALLA, who after only releasing two records have carved their esoteric cuneiform edicts into the stele of violent musical experiments. Responding to my queries is Slo, main master composer, who was for long prohibited to answer due to the curses of a malicious witch – the following questions were sent back in September when Nova Persei was just released, so let's pretend that it hasn't been sold out for 8 months...
Smohalla is, to many, a brand new name, of whom we know very little. Please, give us a brief introduction of the band and it's members!
slo: The band is simply the result of recordings I’ve made in 2006. After that starting point, Camille and A.l joined me. There's nothing except sound, music and concept/lyrics to explain about Smohalla, no real biography, no amazing stories to tell, no raping of dead crows and no Muslim killers in the band. I want people to consider us only a musical entity, all the rest is worthless.
How & when & why did it all begin?
slo: We started in 2006, maybe in February/March. You know how life can sometimes be crappy, boring, constraining, we each got our own way to flee all that shit. So to answer "why", I'll simply say that to write music is the best way I found to escape reality. I remember when I was younger, before discovering my first rock albums. I was so disappointed by life, nothing interesting to do except reading, playing game gear and burning insects (for the last point I probably merge with the A.l past). Dreaming and drawing was the only way I found to express something, and it clearly wasn't enough.
Then I discovered music, with first Queen albums ('queen II' is just one of the best album ever), Iron Maiden, Porno for Pyros, etc. And later, extreme metal and dark stuff like Christian Death, Orphaned Land, Samael, Arcturus, Emperor, Rotting Christ, etc. And here we are, more than ten years later, we'll all die soon and have some music to record before.
How does a Smohalla piece come to life - who is the main composer? Do you jam out a lot of the music as a band?
slo: I'm the main composer, but Camille started to work as a song writer with 'Nova Persei'. Check the song called "les yeux du temps" to hear that he totally succeeded in creating a unique and great atmosphere. He recorded the principle guitar parts for our Ulver cover too. Oh, and about jamming, we never jam, never practice together. There's no rehearsals, no live, we only share ideas and record stuff.
A NEW STAR IS BORN
Your latest release, Nova Persei (which is also your first label release, on God Is Myth Records) is based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, of whom I am a long-time admirer of. Can you give us a brief synopsis of this story?
slo: "Nova Persei" is a kind of "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" adaptation. Some explications about the concept have been published here: http://www.god-is-myth.com/13.html
All lyrics are in French, so, following this link everyone could know what the songs are talking about and how we've extended the Lovecraft novel for writing a kind of tie in.
Why did you choose this particular story, from his vast body of works?
slo: Because this story is simply one of my favourites and because it was the more appropriate novel to develop a new story upon. You know, a lot of Lovecraft stories are based on earthly synopsis, with Ancient Ones and bizarre stuff of course, but I wanted to illustrate my favourite side of Lovecraft: this mix between cosmic and terror, greatness, and infinity. You know there is something I really like when you're reading the finale of a Lovecraft story, that is this strong feeling of falling through the disillusion of matter, there's always that point when you realize all is lost, all is absurd, and all will be terrible forever.
By the way there were real interlacements between the Lovecraft text and our music, that was very interesting, A.I. and I spent a lot of time writing the lyrics. I hope one day someone will read them.
How did you translate the certain Lovecraftian themes, emotions and events of this story into music?
slo: Lovecraftian themes are impossible to translate in music. And music is impossible to translate in words. That's why I consider our work like an extension of the novel in our world. Music is music, vegetables are vegetables (but they both can be vegetables and animals sometimes), life is life...
On Nova Persei, all lyrics are in French, whereas you earlier you switched between your native tongue and English. What provoked this change?
slo: Just the will to write the best lyrics we can. And you know, it's easier in your own language. After a while I just realized French was the more appropriate tongue for the Smohalla style; for the moment. My English is kind of poor. But maybe we'll use it again, I don't know...
If people who can’t read French are interested in reading our lyrics, they'll just have to do what I've done while in my youth with English lyrics: translation. It's a kind of opening, yeah I think it's good for the kids' brains.
While still keeping to the very original sound of your first release, some things have changed on Nova Persei; to me it feels a lot more intricate and jazzy, and more symphonic. Was this a natural evolution, or was it intended to suite the theme of Nova Persei?
slo: It's probably both. I'm not sure about the jazz touch 'cause the last time I listened to jazz was probably while watching a 70's porn movie, or in some metal band like Atheist or DEP. These kind of influences probably come from noise bands since they use dissonant riffs too, for example: Playing Enemy, Starkweather, Ion Dissonance, Hella, Zeni Geva, the Assistant, Tusk.. They're all playing different stuff, and there's so many more to name. But in their music I see a common will to explore new ideas, sometimes it can take roots from the freedom/creativeness you'll find in jazz, like some Off Minor riffs, but for me and my guitar playing it just comes from these 'new' generations.
About the symphonic side, we tried to make something more complex, more fleshed out and more rich.. In fact, it was at the same time a natural and required step. First, the concept of the story was calling for something more cosmic and vast. And I listen a lot of classical music, from Mozart to "modern"composers like Ohana, Bernstein, Varèse, or Górecki. I guess you can hear it on our songs now, and you'll keep hearing it cause I really like how it makes our music sound stronger and special. I don't use orchestral arrangements like most of these symphonic black metal bands do, 'cause sometimes they sound like The Neverending Story meeting a troll, I don’t really like it. It's all about Russian composers, Wagner, or Beethoven, like if classical music stopped in the XIXth century...
MUSIC OF THE SPHERES
Though not being active as a band that long, you are all obviously not new to your instruments. Have you been involved in other musical projects before Smohalla?
slo: We all played in a lot of bands before Smohalla, and still do. Some of them will be releasing something soon: THE SECT is a kind of homage to the mid 90's atmospheric black metal scene, with a strong classical touch. Our first mini CD will be out soon. SVETA ISTINA VJESTICA is a duo between Camille and me, mixing noise, black metal, crust, noise and even thrash influences... short and brutal songs, with heavy parts. This band is fully dedicated to the society of eastern witches. TWILIGHT CONGREGATION is a band I started last year with Andrew from VELNIAS. Something progressive, orchestral, with bizarre and sad themes. I can't even tell if it's doom, post black or just a new kind of heavy metal, haha. By the way, the next Velnias cd to be released on God is Myth will be amazing, you can believe me, so be sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled...
Camille plays the bass with HOWLING POETRY too, their first mini CD was released a few weeks ago and it's simply great. Violent and brutal as bands like Aclys or Napalm Death. He's got a solo project too, DREAMS OF THE DROWNED, which is one of the best, most promising things I hear that mixes extreme metal and extreme hardcore. HAVEN and STAGNANT WATER are two really interesting projects from him as well, he's a very talented composer.
Will Smohalla ever be realized in a live setting?
slo: I don't think so. But as we say in France, "ne jamais dire jamais".
There is a lot of great extreme & avant-gardist metal coming out of France these days (to name a few satanists: Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord and the sadly discontinued Diapsiquir). Not much do these bands seem to have in common, except their nationality and a vague sense of "frenchness" in the sound. Do you think that there is a certain French sound, though perhaps not as obvious as for example the Norwegian sound?
slo: On the contrary, I think there's absolutely no particular French extreme metal sound or something like that. As you said, there's no real similarities between BAN or Diapsiquir or between Spektr and us. That's why I'm proud to be a part of this scene, because we don't care what the others are playing, we like it or we don't, but we will not try to copy each others sound. Remember Norway 10 years ago, there were 87647 fucking black metal bands and you couldn't tell any of them apart. Everyone was trying to sound like Immortal or Darkthrone, that was so boring. Now again, there's a lot of bands without any personality, like in U.S.A where you can find so much Leviathan-like etc..
Here in France you get a lot of "copies" too, but when a French band starts to spread their name, you can almost be sure that this will be a particular sound. It's rare, 'cause you got a lot of shit here, like everywhere, or maybe more than everywhere... France isn't a "musical country" like Sweden, Germany or England can be. I consider us closer to countries like Switzerland or Austria, we don't have 6780 killer bands, our musical background is rather poor, but we got some really interesting bands from the past 10-20 years. Well, OK, in fact there are more interesting bands in Switzerland..
So to resume, there's absolutely not a French sound. Maybe only a common will to explore new ideas in music.
I would like to mention some other French bands who definitely have their own vision: PRYAPISME; who are simply amazing, probably the craziest band from France. SAEL and ASMODÉE are to me among the best black metal bands here, ART 238, VEHEMENTER NOS, WAY TO END, NUMENOR, HKY, SENOYS, SARCUEIL.. And I'm still forgetting a lot more interesting bands coming from France, you can believe me.
Judging from the response you get on the Internet, the future seems bright and shiny for Smohalla. What do you intend to do next?
slo: Well, we're recording our first album to come out on Vendlus, working on split releases as well. Creating again and again, that's the only desire we have. I've got so many ideas to get out of my head. It's so impressive to consider that you can find the same infinity in a man's brain as in the whole, stretching universe. You catch what you've discovered in the past, then you transform and model it, again and again until you have something personal and interesting. You always have a starting point since you can't create from nothing. You can't build a church in space but you can do it on a cloud.
Next track that'll be released will be for a concept compilation with Juvenile Baroque Slaughterhouse, Sael, Frostmoon Eclipse, Glorior Belli and many others. This project is really interesting, every band gets to create a song freely inspired by the painting "Toteninsel" by Böcklin. For the moment, the first 10 tracks I've heard are all great and they all differ, which is pretty cool. It will definitely not be another classic black metal compilation to promote unsaleable albums. You can check the advancement of this project here: http://www.myspace.com/tributetototeninsel
Much gratitude for at last answering these questions! A pox on those who do not dare to seek out you musick (and the legion of bands you recommended). Any last words to add?
slo: Thanks to you and the whole avant-garde metal team. And of course, the typical promo words:"Buy our last CD or die!" Ok, we don't have any cds to sell for the moment, so goodbye.
Oh and sorry, I've forgot to put these sentences, without them this would not be a real interview: "Our new album is definitely more heavy than the last one", "This is the best record we ever wrote", "Yeah, our producer is like our 5th member", "There were real musical & relational problems between Priestfucker and I so he decided to leave the band. But we're still good friends, next time I saw him was at an Ulver gig and we talked a lot" "We don't want to record the same album again and again, we are not AC/DC" "True Satanists are people praying to the true Satan" "I'm not fascist cause I'm not hating only black or yellow people, I just hate all of humanity, except for myself, my close friends and the 2 ugly girls that will fuck me when they're drunk" "I will kill myself for our 26th album, I swear it"
Ok, le carnaval est ouvert, au revoir.