zondag 18 november 2018

Sieben: The European Union are kinder overlords than the ones we may well inherit, out on our own, pretending we are not part of the world.

Brexit causes huge debate. One of the people who do not get over it is Matt Howden from Sieben. It resulted in a great album: 'Crumbs', a collection of songs about the state of affairs in the world. An angry disc, for sure, diluted with a generous portion of humor. We did our best to calm him down…

‘Crumbs’, your latest CD, is without doubt the most politically motivated one you made. Up to now, you had an approach that was more purely artistic. What made you choose to make an overt political stance in your work?

With previous Sieben albums, I would head off to my studio, shut the door and leave the world behind. The aim was to create my own world, and a particular vibe that suited the theme of the music. With Crumbs, world events, the news and the bad smell of current world politics followed me into the studio. I couldn’t shake it. Nor the anger that I feel.

More artists seem to rediscover the power of engaged music. But there is certainly an opposite movement. Political movements preaching xenophobia, isolationism, conservatism, vulgarity, authoritarian leadership, warmongering and nationalism are on the rise. Trump in the USA, the Brexit in the UK… What do you think are the causes of this ‘populist’ movement?

The world is at a point of immense change. It has contracted and shrunk. Border walls are up. Populists thrive on division, division of people. Of attacking the intellectual, denigrating sanity and calm. It’s an easy and dangerous route to power and control. For instance, who would have thought we could be back to a Cold War scenario, with the click of a finger? Almost as if two nations had decided to ‘ramp up’ pressure in order to garner popular support for themselves at home, to push their own agendas, to profit massively from the chaos that ensues.

One aspect that critics of politically motivated songs point out, is that they are not ‘timeless’ music. I would reply that if you look at classic, ‘timeless’ albums, they are all very well connected to the time in which they were recorded. What would you comment on that?

A good song is a good song. But as you say, also connected to the time it was recorded, both in its sound, its production, and in lyrical content.


One must love a title as ‘I Will Ignore The Apocalypse’ with the sentence ‘A better nature will endure’. Or the Satire of ‘Here’s The News’. You make good use of humour on ‘Crumbs’. Do you try to take up the role of jester in order to spread your message?

Humour is really important to me. And its something that I’ve been unable to squeeze into previous Sieben work. On the whole. It didn’t fit with the style of works such as ‘Ogham Inside The Night’, or many of the earlier albums. ‘Sex & Wildflowers’ and ‘Desire Rites’ had some sneaky humour in them, I suppose. With ‘Crumbs’ I’m laughing and making a joke, otherwise I would scream and wail. It is ‘gallows’ humour.

‘Crumbs’ is of course an angry and ‘Dark Enough’ CD, but you seem to end it with a positive note. Songs as ‘Liberal Snowflake’, ‘Forge A Better World’ and ‘We Will Be Alright’ are very optimistic. In short, you believe we will be able to confront all the wrongs you mention on the CD. Where does your hope come from?

Crumbs can roughly be divided into three types of songs, all with a bit of tongue in cheek: Angry. So outraged that I can only take the piss. Positive. My hope is decent people speak up and act decently against a tide of fear-and-hate-mongering.
You are obviously angry about brexit, but I have the feeling that opponents of the brexit tend to idealize the European Union. The Union gives much power to the unelected European Commission and allows only restricted power to the Parliament. People have the feeling that they are ruled by technocrats who – at the end of the day – are closer to big business than to the people. What would you tell them?

I would agree, to some extent. I don’t see the European Parliament as by any means perfect. Big business is still allowed to run unchecked; contracts may well be secured by dubious means etc, as with all governments. But they are better than what we had, from either side, here in the UK. Better spreading of wealth to poorer areas, better environmental laws, better labour laws and so on, in many other ways. Second, that Europe’s combined voice has been and is more sensible and rational that current US, Russian, Korean, Arab voices, on the world stage of politics. Third, that leaving the Union is economic suicide in so many ways. Europe is our neighbour, our main point of trade (both ways), and the ‘union’ makes economic sense on so many levels. Overall, the world for sure needs to overhaul ‘big business’, the notions of ‘shareholders’ and ‘economic growth’. I would agree. And that 20 people owns half the world’s wealth (to quote myself) “is a sickness”. They are kinder overlords than the ones we may well inherit, out on our own, pretending we are not part of the world.


You have visited different countries in Europe, and they have influenced your music. I think about the Norse, Lietuva and Briton EP-series, later merged into the ‘The Old Magic’ CD, in particular. Coming from a background in the neofolk-scene – you have worked extensively with Sol Invictus and Tony Wakeford – in which the idea of a ‘European culture’ is very important, what would you say unites this diversity of countries? Is there an European culture?

There are many cultures, and many ways in a global world. We must recognise this. I think we perhaps have more in common with each other than we do with those further afield, but there is not A European culture. Nor should there be. We are beautifully disparate. But with a union we are stronger. And we are less likely to pick fights with each other, too.

Speaking about the EP series. The Belgian artist Empusae recently made his version of ‘Užupis’, a track featured on the Lietuva EP (and also featured as ‘On The Other Side Of The River’ on ‘The Old Magic’). What did you think of it?

I really Love what he’s done with it. Always nice to hear someone else’s take on your own work, and what they add of themselves and omit of you. I’ve done the same, the other way round, remixing Nicolas’s work, Sieben-style, and was really fun to do.

You played at the Rebellion festival this year, the biggest punk festival in the world. I think it’s great that you were invited, but our reporter at the festival wrote that you were an outsider at the festival and that many of the attendees didn’t know you. How did your participation at the festival occurred and how do you look back at it?

I love playing at Rebellion. And I love the challenge of an audience that is new to me- and I’m new to them. This year I played 2 shows at Rebellion, and once a couple of years before. Its sometimes a little difficult to get people to your shows as so much is going on at the same time, and also because such events tend to be nostalgia-based for many people attending- so they’ll obviously go to the stuff they know. Not the best place to have your music ‘discovered’ perhaps, but a fabulous event that I always enjoy - been 4 times, played 2 of those - and always relish playing at. And a nice new audience for me, with Crumbs more accessible to them than previous albums.

Like many other independent artists, you chose to distribute your music via bandcamp, which means that everyone everywhere can listen to your music for free and only a few will buy the download or the physical record. What do you think are the benefits and the disadvantages of bandcamp?

I find bandcamp quite empowering. For starters, you can set the number of times people can listen for free until they need to buy. I’ve set mine to 3, so you can hear the entire album 3 times before deciding if you’ll purchase it. I release on Bandcamp in tandem with digital release through a distributor - in my case AWAL - who add the release to 250 or so sites, for purchase. If someone buys it from Bandcamp I get 85% of the payment. If someone buys it from iTunes - or most of the others - I get around 60%. With such small margins these days it adds to a very meagre income for a ‘niche’ - not very successful financially, shall we say, politely - artis
t such as myself.

Pictures: Mal Michelow

dinsdag 13 november 2018

The Names 40 Years: We're lucky to have everyone still alive and well, unlike many of our friends of Factory records.

40 years of new wave is also 40 years of The Names, the Belgian band that signed with the legendary Factory Records of Joy Division and New Order fame and had hits with ‘Calcutta’ and ‘Nightshift’. The jubilee is celebrated with a grand anniversary concert with numerous surprises on 24 November in Drogenbos. Singer Michel Sordinia already lifted a tip of the veil for us ...

You celebrate your 40th anniversary this year. What feeling do you have when confronted with the fact that The Names are already 40 years old?

It's a very sweet confrontation, since The Names are still making recordings on a regular base (every two years), and touring around Europe (next destination is Italy -again!- in March 2019). The feeling is: Let's celebrate! Let's share these emotions with our friends and our wonderful audience, who's giving us so much each time we are on stage somewhere! 

To celebrate the jubilee, you will do a special anniversary concert: The Names in Quarantaine. You have invited the original members from the line-up that recorded ‘Swimming’. How easy was it to convince past members Christophe Den Tandt and Luc Capelle to participate, and how was it to work with them again after all those years?

I got everybody's enthusiastic response in no time. I was very moved by that. Last night (October the 29th), we just started rehearsing with the original line-up (Marc, Christophe, Luc and I). For the first time in 37 years... It was like we never stopped! Great music, great drive, very tight. And a lot of jokes like in those early years...

I heard you will play with the current line-up also. Will these be two separate shows, or will the musicians play together in one show?

There will be two separate sets, with totally different songs (no duplicate, each song played once by one of the two line-ups). But with a few (big) surprises awaiting you...

Even more spectacular is the reunion of The Passengers, the punk band that preceded The Names from 1977 to 1978. It must have been difficult not only to reform the band, but also to learn the old songs again, which I presume you haven’t played for a long time…

Like with The Names, everybody was immediately enthusiastic. Of course we're lucky to have everyone still alive and well. Sadly, so many died among our friends of Factory records, and also here in Belgium (there will be a tribute to them during the concert)... When we started playing together again, it clicked just like in a dream. The songs were like pristine, waiting to be played again. It gave me shivers down my spine. Very emotional moments. With Isabelle singing like if time didn't exist.

With The Passengers, you even recorded some of the old material. Two singles will be released by Les disques du crépuscule: ‘All Through The Night’ and ‘Queen Of Weird’. Can you tell us more about these records?

My idea of recording with the band (something that we sadly didn't do back in the 1970's, except for a demo) was welcomed by James Nice, who is managing both Factory Benelux (releasing recordings of The Names) and Les Disques du Crépuscule labels. So the two singles in limited edition and in coloured vinyl (one clear, one red) will be released on Crépuscule the day before the concert. The recording happened in June at our regular "lair", Noise Factory studio in Wierde, near Namur. With Thomas Neidhardt at the mixing desk and in a very "analogic" spirit (no effect, no overdub, like if we were recording in 1977/1978). There are four original songs, three old ones ("All Through The Night", "New Life", "Danger Zone") and a brand new one that I wrote in the spirit of those early days: "Queen of Weird". Certainly one of the very best songs I ever wrote.   

To complete the jubilee, there will also be an exhibition with work from Philippe Carly, Marcus Portée and Peter Staessens. Why did you decide to include their photos in the event?

Philippe, Marcus and Peter are not only our dear friends, they are very talented artists, who have tons of fantastic pictures of The Names both then and now. I could not imagine the event without them and their pictures!

maandag 12 november 2018

La Scaltra: Our lyrics are written by life. They tell about pain, grief, farewell, but also about hope.

Fans of gothic rock, your attention please! If you haven’t heard of La Scaltra yet, then you have to listen to them urgently. The band has already released two fine albums and will play at the 25th Dark Entries Night at the Kinky Star in Ghent.

La Scaltra started out as a duo of Aeleth Kaven and Dae Widow. How did you meet and how did you decide to make music together?

Dae and I met 2014 at a concert. Dae was doing merchandise for aeon sable and we learned to know each other there. We soon found out that we are very similar and that we share a love for music, so we spoke about how it would be to do a project together. That´s when the idea was born.

Solar Lodge, one of the leading labels in the gothic rock genre, releases your CDs. How did you get signed with Solar Lodge?

Since Dae knows Artaud and Jawa Seth from The Merciful Nuns well, they paid close attention to La Scaltra and we got the chance with our ‘Ghosts EP’ to join Solar Lodge in 2016 after we published ‘Cabaret’, our first CD without any label. Therefore we are still very thankful for this opportunity given to us and happy to be part of Solar Lodge.

The music you make can be characterized as gothic rock, but the focus is more on synths than on guitars. Isn’t gothic rock meant to be dominated by guitars?

I guess that's because we have those elements of gothic rock in our music, but it is not essential. ‘Cabaret’ and also ‘Freakshow’ were dark medleys of what came to my mind. It was very experimental, with different dark styles and sometimes not really definable. All in all it is witchy and gloomy, and that´s what will always be in our songs, whether there is more gothic rock with guitars in them or more synths and wave or mostly all combined and mixed.

You started out and you build your image as two girls making music. I remember an interview I did with Bettina Köster is which she said it was very important for her to work with women, as they have another feeling for rhythm. How important is it that the music is played by women?

Hmm, I cannot say it is different. If you have a real musician in your band, it does not matter whether it's a woman or a man. You can have boisterous girls as well as you have feminine boys in your group... in my opinion, it is the spirit of music that matters and how it all works together in the end, not the gender.

Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics?

First and foremost: Life and its experiences. What could be more instructive und informative as our lives? And what is more destructive than life? Everything we went through, whether good our bad, forms our further person, our further paths. It becomes part of us and often it is not easy to accept. This struggling with life is one part of creating my songs, on the other hand of course being a hardcore fan of Horrorfilms and -games, so I guess there will be a creepy story or a link with a genre game on every album of La Scaltra.

In 2016, you released ‘Cabaret’ as a digital album, but also the ‘Ghosts’-ep consisting of 4 songs from ‘Cabaret’ on Solar Lodge. Why two different releases?

Yeah, that's right. We were a little bit too early with 'Cabaret', haha. The Solar Lodge deal was a few months later, so they did a lift from the album and created the 'Ghost EP' with a special booklet and 4 songs.

2017 saw the release of your second full album ‘Freak Show’. It got very good reactions. Are you happy with the record and the reactions?

Of course we are! Every inch of happiness about something you created with your time and heart makes you proud, or should make you proud. But I would never take it for granted! It is sometimes still like ‘What? Do they really mean us?’ When it comes to compliments... sometimes all of this is far, far away and sometimes it is right next to you and looks you in the eyes and goes like ‘bam, in your face!’

‘Freakshow’ saw the participation of Jay Sharpe as producer and guitarist. I believe he is now a full member of the band. What is his role in the band?

Jay Sharpe is a full member of La Scaltra and is also the guitarist and Din-Tah Aeon of aeon sable. He is my beloved life mate and boyfriend and a high valued partner. All of those song ideas - which I prepare all by myself - are being finished, mixed and mastered by him. And of course he creates all guitar lines, except I have ideas before he can speak out loud, haha.

You recently added another member to play bass: Saeda Moreau. Was she included in order to perform live?

Saeda Moreau is a full member of La Scaltra, not just a live performer. Before she came to La Scaltra, I did bass and vocals, but I feel better as a standalone singer. More movement, more interactions... bass playing needs an own position in our music. Our songs are mostly built on our vocals, and it is extremely hard to do dancing, playing bass and singing altogether with such bunch of vocal parts. I am happy Saeda is with us to completely fulfil those bass lines and she does a great work, way better than I did. Now I can dance, sing along and concentrate on those parts (and nudge the others on stage, haha!)

Will the growth of the band from two to four members affect the music you make?
Of course our bass lines will be more intensive, I guess. In our new songs the bass lines are “more” than on the albums before, that much I can tell. But I hope you will listen yourself then.

You did several concerts during the last months including the Amphi Festival. How would you describe the La Scaltra live experience?

La Scaltra live is a dark journey into memories that are both beautiful and ugly. Our lyrics are written by life. They tell about pain, grief, farewell, but also about hope. Seeing La Scaltra live should be a sea of feelings combined with a little bit of Rock Music and Dark Wave Synth to dance along. Yeah, dancing with the witches! And we are really looking forward to playing in Belgium. Finally!

I heard you are working on a new album. Can you already tell us something about it?

I can tell this much: There will be the same gloomy atmosphere, but with more power, more magick, more expression and passion. La Scaltra continues to evolve and we will show that on the next album. We will also do collaborations with male singers again, but yet I cannot tell you who it will be. Time will tell…

La Scaltra: bandcamp / facebook / website

dinsdag 30 oktober 2018

Simi Nah: Cet album est une façon pour moi de “Tirer ma révérence”, de finir en beauté si tu préfères.

Finir en beauté, c’est ce que Simi Nah espérait avec son nouveau CD "La terre est noire". Et comment ! Le disque est un vrai chef-d’oeuvre. Un joyau sombre, cependant, avec de nombreuses références à la dépression, l'insomnie, la douleur, la mort et le suicide.

Bonjour Simi Nah. Je tiens à te féliciter pour ‘La terre est noire’, ton nouveau CD. Il est superbe. J’oserais même dire que c’est ce que tu as fait de mieux. Comment évalues-tu le disque toi-même ?

Bonjour Xavier.
 Je te remercie du compliment. J'avoue que, moi même, j’ai un peu ce sentiment. J'ai muri, j'ai grandi, j'ai pris beaucoup de plaisir sur scène ces dernières années, j'ai souffert aussi… Alors oui, cet album réuni l'ensemble de ces sentiments très forts, ce qui fait de lui sans doute le plus profond.

Le disque est très sombre, avec beaucoup de références à la mort et même au suicide. J’ai l’impression que le disque est très personnel. Qu’est-ce qui t’as amené à écrire un album aussi “noire” ?

Comme je te le dis plus haut, peut être ce fameux mélange de plaisir et de souffrance interne. Je réalise que suis une personne assez compliquée, malgré les apparences ! Pas facile à cerner, et j'ai constamment besoin de changement. La monotonie me déprime et la routine me rend folle... j'ai passé une période très complexe dans ma tête où je me levais parfois le matin en n'ayant que des idées “noires” en tête... comme la mort ! L'écriture de cet album m'a permis de ne pas sombrer et m'a aidé à surmonter mes peurs.

C’est sombre, mais tu ne perds pas la touche ‘pop’ que tu as eue toute ta carrière. C’est un point que tu as en commun avec Milène Farmer, avec qui tu as déjà souvent été comparée. Qu’en penses-tu ?

La fameuse comparaison avec Mylène Farmer, en soit, ne me dérange pas du tout. Elle a fait de très belles choses, et ce comparatif ne peut être que positif. Maintenant, il n'y a aucune volonté de ma part de vouloir lui ressembler; j'écris des mots les uns après les autres en utilisant ma langue natale, je joue avec les mots comme les mots jouent avec moi, et j'aime les voix sombres et douces… Donc oui, inévitablement il y a des points communs !

Après avoir entendu le CD, j’étais surpris d’entendre que c’était le dernier, et surtout que tu n’allais même pas faire de concerts pour le promouvoir. Pourquoi cette décision ?

C'est compliqué … Cet album est une façon pour moi de “Tirer ma révérence”, de finir en beauté si tu préfères. La vie est éphémère, tout est “F.M.R”, et parfois il est préférable d'arrêter plutôt que de dégénérer. Nous avons décidé, avec Kenny, mon partner in crime, de changer de vie radicalement, et à l'heure même où je t'écris, nous vivons dans un tout petit village en France où seuls les oiseaux performent des symphonies pour nous !

Tu as publié trois singles avant le disque, dont le premier en juin 2017. Je présume que la route a été longue pour publier ce disque. Combien de temps y avez-vous travaillé et pourquoi cela a duré si longtemps?

Parce que mon mal-être interne m'a aidé à écrire ces textes, mais m'a aussi freiné tant je ne savais plus où aller, ni dans ma tète, ni dans la musique... Le temps a produit de différentes atmosphères que l'on retrouve tout au long de l'album. Les plus sombres ont été écrites en dernier lieu.

Avec “La terre est noire”, tu retournes vers le français comme langue principale. J’apprécie beaucoup les jeux de mots et la façon dont tu joues avec la langue française. Pourquoi ce retour aux sources ?

Je n'ai jamais vraiment quitté cette façon d'être. “Be my guest”, qui n'était pas vraiment un album perso, faisait exception à la règle. Mais mes 2 albums précédents étaient presque tout en français. Pour “La Terre est Noire”, ce que j'avais à dire était trop théâtral pour utiliser la langue de Shakespeare, c'est donc choisi Molière pour m'inspirer !

Comme c’est la fin de ta carrière musicale, je me disais qu’il serait intéressant de parcourir ta carrière. Ton premier album – “Cherchez la femme” de 2004 – était basé sur les relations avec ta mère et ta fille, un sujet qui te préoccupes encore aujourd’hui. On remarque aussi que ton style musical est resté assez consistent durant ta carrière… Quel regard porte tu sur ton début ?

Un début reste un début, et comme tout commencement, on se cherche encore ! “Cherchez la Femme” était effectivement un thème profond sur ma recherche de personnalité entre ma mère et ma fille. Je suis entretemps passé à autre chose ….
La production musicale était encore très naïve et timide, bien que l'on abordait déjà le retour du gothic et de la new wave dans cet album, alors que le revival n'était pas d'actualité en 2004 !
Ton second album “5” se veut une réflexion sur le monde de la mode. Tu as essayé de devenir créatrice et tu avais même déménagée à Paris pour cela, où tu as passé une période assez difficile. L’album se veut plutôt critique vis-à-vis du monde de la mode, n’est-ce pas ?

Oui tout à fait ! Tu vois, c'est encore une facette de moi qui est un peu difficile à interpréter ! D'abord je voulais devenir styliste quand j'étais jeune, puis par manque de moyens (ma mère m'élevait seule et ne pouvais pas payer les seules écoles de stylisme qui existaient à l'époque), je n'ai jamais fait les études de mode dont je rêvais. J'ai alors tout quitté pour aller vivre à Paris en espérant apprendre sur le tas, mais le rêve a vite tourné au cauchemar ! Cela t'ouvre les yeux, et plus tard tu te dis que le talent ne s'achète pas, mais la popularité si !! L'industrie de la mode manipule la population en imposant ses choix, et le temps de Coco Chanel est bien loin, si loin qu'il a atteint les frontières de la Chine en production massive !

C’est aussi à Paris que tu as eu cette fameuse rencontre avec Gavin Friday des Virgin Prunes ? Que s’est-il passé ?

Hahaha oui !! Comment sais tu tout cela ? J'ai vu un de leur concert en plus ou moins 1986, si je me souviens bien, à l'Elysée Montmartre à Paris. Après le concert, par je ne sais quel miracle, je me suis retrouvée à l'arrière de la salle et j'ai pénétré dans les loges. Ne me demande pas comment, je n'en ai aucune idée !!
 Gavin Friday venait d'avoir une dispute ou discussion avec Guggi et il était en pleure. Je me suis approchée de lui pour le consoler comme j'ai pu, et après avoir sécher ses larmes il s'est remaquillé les yeux en noir. J'en ai profité pour faire de même en empruntant son crayon khôl et il m'a dit que je pouvais le garder en souvenir ! Figure toi que je l'ai toujours !!

Les deux premiers albums contiennent une réflexion sur le rôle de la femme dans la société. Que signifie le mouvement féministe pour toi aujourd’hui ?

Rien du tout ! Je ne suis pas féministe, pas plus que ça. Je n'aime pas mettre des mots sur des idées pareilles. Je suis plutôt pour le respect de tous, femme ou non, mais c'est un trop long débat je pense. 
Le rôle “des femmes” dans mes premiers album était d'ordre sentimental, plutôt qu'un rôle en particulier dans la société.
 Cela dit, j'ai plus d'affinité avec les animaux qu'avec les femmes ou les hommes !

“Be My Guest” est un album avec des reprises de classiques new wave classics with avec des ‘guests’ comme Dirk Ivens, Dirk Da Davo, Nikkie Van Lierop, Luc Van Acker… L’album a été un succès indéniable, mais il y a aussi eu des critiques qui disaient que le succès était facile avec cette formule…

Les mauvaises critiques restent des critiques, le négatif est aussi positif que le positif ! Tu me suis?
 Le succès de cet album, c'était à mes yeux la spontanéité du projet, rien n'a été prémédité, c'est arrivé tout seul. C'était un album fun à produire, mais aussi celui qui a demandé le plus de travail, tant coté production que coté organisation. Nous avons, Kenny et moi, tout fait nous-mêmes. Enregistrements, arrangements, mixes, pochette, promo, et pour ne rien laisser au hasard, nous avons monté notre label Why2k Music pour sortir cet album. Donc peu être formule “facile”, mais travail du dingue !

J’ai une thèse et je veux te demander ton avis : ‘la crise de l’industrie musicale fait que les considérations commerciales ont perdues beaucoup de leur importance et que la démarche artistique est redevenue primordiale. En fin de compte, ça bénéficie à la qualité des œuvres produites aujourd’hui’. Qu’en penses-tu ?

Je suis assez partagée sur ce sujet; à l'époque où j'ai commencé mon projet solo, nous pouvions vivre de la musique seule. Comme tu l'as mentionné plus haut, un album ça prend du temps, beaucoup de temps, il faut donc pouvoir s'y consacrer corps et âme pour obtenir de bons résultats.
 A l'heure actuelle, nombreux sont les artistes que je connais obligés d'avoir une seconde occupation pour “survivre”, et pour ma part cela ne m'a pas réussi. Car oui j'ai aussi dû faire “autre chose” pour intégrer cette société qui avait décidé à ma place que la musique ne faisait pas partie des normes. Cela m'a beaucoup affectée et je ne parvenais pas à changer de peau pour passer d'un monde dit “normal” à un monde “artistique”. D'où les longs écarts entre et durant les albums.
 Maintenant, c'est peut être cette frustration intense qui nous a amené à écrire notre meilleur album !
Que vas-tu faire maintenant ? Une résurrection de Coma, le premier groupe de toi et Kenny ?

Vivre sereinement, écouter le “Chant des loups” et des cerfs, et le reste suivra…

Merci pour cette interview !

Merci à toi aussi !

Photos: Luc Luyten (1), Xavier Marquis (2-5)

Simi Nah: bandcamp/ website/ facebook

zondag 21 oktober 2018

Good news: Alien Sex Fiend is still "Possessed'

Dark Entries had a long chat with one of the more important batcave pioneers, Alien Sex Fiend (ASF), still going strong after a career of 36 years! Time to celebrate with a new album, both on cd and vinyl, and out in November. Dark Entries had the unique opportunity to prelisten to the new “Possessed” album by Alien Sex Fiend, and of course we had some questions! 

“Possessed” is the title of the new album by ASF... What does possess your minds lately and what kind of influences were important to give birth to the new album... the intro is rather ‘haunting’...

Nik Fiend : The intro is like an overture to the album, we used elements from different songs across the album to create it, to set an atmosphere... The start of the album actually goes back to 2012 when our old guitarist from the late 1980s to 90s, Doc Milton, had returned & the gigs with him went up several gears. They were electric! After a few years, I became very obssessed – or possessed! - with the idea of recording that band line up but we didn’t know whether that would be a couple of tracks or what. We went into the studio with some initial ideas & the recordings happened fast, the songs almost fell out of us. Doc was on fire, recording lots of guitar tracks which was unusual for him, but it is strange that he did record so much guitar because when he died in 2016, we had all that material to use on the album. After that, I had to be possessed in order to finish the album! We had to absorb the loss of Doc & we took a break while we compiled “Fiendology” (3 CD set, 35 years of ASF history), also  a number of other personal events interrupted work on the album, but always in my mind was the plan to finish “Possessed”. At times though it did feel like we were on “the road to Mordor” like in the Lord Of The Rings – it was a very long road!
Mrs Fiend : There were many obstacles along the way. So we are very happy that at last “Possessed” is going to be released on November 9th!

Do you agree with my point of view that during the decades ASF became harsher, harder and more experimental, “Possessed” sounds like a harsh, slightly experimental industrial batcave album, most bands growing older tend to write boring love songs... No for ASF... Sounds like you still got some ‘anger’ in you...

Nik Fiend : I think I thrive on angst!
Mrs Fiend : I don’t know what it is, but with a track like “Shit’s Coming Down” for example, I just love that full on beat! That appeals to me, or mental guitar, or mad spacey noises, not fucking love songs! It is interesting how some music that seemed to be “far out” or quite experimental years ago, doesn’t sound like that now, whereas other music has stood the test of time & still sounds weird! Basically we like weird, far out music!
Nik Fiend : I take it as a compliement that you think we are still experimental - after all these years, that’s an achievement! I always wanted to be in a weird, underground band! ASF can be anything it wants to be, since Day One it has been that way, we have always made different sounding songs,
Mrs Fiend : Every album is different.
Nik Fiend : A period of time gets locked into a record. You would not be able to re-create that particular time & that particular feeluing & sound, they are encapsulated in that recording. We’re not always aggressive musically, I think its probably 50/50. We don’t write 8 rockers & 2 power ballads per album!! We have never done that...We always do what we believe in, we’ve never been told what to record, or how to record, & if I was ever told I wouldn’t listen! (Laughs) We’ve always done things our way, our music is like alchemy ...

To me, listening to possessed was like a psychedelic trip through my inner mind, my darkest corners, my nightmares... was it the same for you? Or was the album created with that kind of purpose? A song like “Amnesia” is like a dark psychedelic trip...

Mrs Fiend : I wouldn’t advise listening to “Amnesia” on acid though! I think it would seriously mess up your mind!! (laughs) It’s scary enough when you’re straight!
Nik Fiend : Yes, its deranged! (laughs) Yes, I agree with you that this album is like a psychedelic trip, it’s great that those ideas have reached you from the music, I feel it is like progressive music but modern, 21st century. The album has created itself to be like that, there was no premeditated plan, or template, it has all come straight from our collective hearts, heads & souls, as it says in the lyrics to “It’s In My Blood”. We’re all in the shit together, I am going down the dark tunnel myself along with everyone else. It is like soul mining. Mining of my soul, it is deep, it goes deep, we have had a very challenging, difficult few years, I know that everyone has those periods of difficulties, it is life, I put all that into my lyrics & the music & the artwork that goes with the album.

You have been active in music business for over 35 years now. How do you look back upon the first ASF releases and this “Possessed”? Is there another approach in the making of the music, the writing of the lyrics etc ?

Mrs Fiend : We’re now in year 36 –eek! It is all “Alien Sex Fiend” music to us & we’re proud of everything we’ve recorded, as Nik said before, each recording captures a time & place & mood (feeling). No there isn’t any difference in how we create songs now, it’s always been the same way - somebody comes up with some element musically – it could be a beat, a guitar riff, a keyboard sound, a weird noise & then we build on that starting point.
Nik Fiend : That initial idea will usually spark up an idea for lyrics. But sometimes I like the sound of a track & I feel that it doesn’t need me to sing over the top. It is all down to how I feel at the time, I like having sections of music that I can just listen to without singing, I enjoy hearing the inter- play of the band & the different instruments weaving in & out & around each other .

ASF seems like a typical non commercial band, songs over 11 minutes, atypical structures and noises, atypical melodies,... Is this a conscious decision, or would ypu also aim for commercial success if commercial music wasn’t that boring? 

Mrs Fiend : In the UK, with a name like “Alien Sex Fiend” there was no way we were ever going to be on “Top Of The Pops” or Radio 1 (mainstream TV & radio) & it’s the same way now! It was a conscious decsision, we were well aware that the name was anti-commercial, so there was no point in a record company trying to manipulate the music or trying to buy us into the mainstream charts.
Nik Fiend : If we have done something “commercial” then it was accidental! (laughs) As we said before, the main aim of the band was to be a weird, underground band, we just wanted to be “Alien Sex Fiend” & do what we wanted to do because we believe in it.

To me “Carcass” is like thé new hit on the new album, referring in a way to that typical pretty insane sound of ASF as thé mark of ASF through the years. Do You agree? Possibly a 7” or 12” version in the pipeline?

Nik Fiend : It’s great that you like “Carcass” so much. Actually there are 3 different mixes of “Carcass” at the moment – the one on the CD, then a slightly shorter version “Carrion Mix” & the “Vortex Mix” both on the Double Vinyl, that last one is a more “rock” version, so there would be enough mixes for a single.
Mrs Fiend : A lot of people seem to like “Shit’s Coming Down” & “It’s In My Blood” too. There will be a digital single at some point we think, but maybe we’ll wait & see what tracks people like & then see what other mixes we might have lurking about.... 

How does the line up like today? And who was responsible for the realization of the new album “Possessed”?                                      

Nik Fiend : Me! (laughs)
Mrs Fiend : And me! (laughs) We’ve written on the album credits “Written, played, engineered & produced by Alien Sex Fiend” & that “Alien Sex Fiend are Nik Fiend, Mrs Fiend, Mat Pod & Doc Milton (RIP)” – so whatever you hear on the album, one of us four is responsible for it! Nik did the vocals, of course, & I did some backing vocals, Doc Milton played most of the guitar, but Mat Pod did the main riff guitar on “Ghost In The Machine” & the blasting guitar at the end of “It’s In My Blood” which is amazing. I did all the keyboard stuff, bass lines, & weird noises – as usual! Plus most of the drums. Mat added some extra electronic bits – weird effects on some things & some extra drums, particularly on “Amnesia” & some of the “Invisible” drums... We basically all worked on everything, all aspects, obviously with the loss of Doc it was the 3 of us who had to carry on to complete the album.
Do you agree, humor is also a main ingredient in the music of ASF... ?

Nik Fiend : It is a main ingredient in life! I don’t think you can get through life without humour, life would be very grim without it!
Mrs Fiend : Yes it is an ingredient in our music, but only one ingredient of many.
Nik Fiend : Otherwise we’d have become stand up comedians instead! (laughs)

A song that intrigues me a lot is “Ghost In The Machine” does it refer to the the work of philosopher Gilbert Rye, and his philosophy of the mind?

Nik Fiend : No, not especially, I’ve never done a philosophy course! I’d like to leave “Ghost In The Machine” open to interpretation. It was the first song we recorded, it came out of a jam while we were checking out the studio because we hadn’t been there before. One of my favourite parts of that song is the backwards guitar in the middle...
Mrs Fiend : To me , it feels like you are going down the rabbit hole Alice In Wonderland!
Nik Fiend : It was amazing how the different sonic elements fitted together, it’s a bizarre song, but really intriguing, you don’t know where it’s heading, I like that.

How would you promote the new album in your own words?

Nik Fiend : It’s music to comfort the disturbed & disturb the comfortable!

 The artwork (painting) is rather minimalistic, but closes in on the album very well, by far the most expressing and haunting ASF cover?

Nik Fiend : Thank you! I had various ideas for the cover, I always do have different ideas in mind, but that painting jumped out at me. 
Mrs Fiend : You should see it on the Double Vinyl cover, you can even see the texture of the canvas Nik painted it on & the brish strokes! It looks amazing, like it IS a painting.

What are the future plans for miss and mister Fiend? And for the band ASF? Are there any dates scheduled already to perform live?

Mrs Fiend : The next part of “the plan” is to play some live shows, but of course we will need to find a new guitarist, so it might take a little while.
Nik Fiend : We improvise a lot  at live gigs, & we’re unorthodox, so it isn’t a simple matter of somebody learning the chords & rehearsing the songs, you have to be immersed in it completely, but we think we have a solution, so stay tuned! Fingers crossed!

What do you prefer (and why) people still playing “Ignore The Machine” on a party or a song from the new album? 
Mrs Fiend : I dont mind – the fact that somebody wants to play any ASF song is the most important thing!
Nik Fiend : “Ignore the Machine” is as relevant as “It’s In My Blood (from “Possessed”) to me, both are songs that we wanted to record & release, nobody forced us to do it. I am as proud of our past songs as I am of the new ones. 

Thank you for your time, & I’m glad that you seem to have had an interesting trip with “Possessed”!!

The pleasure was and is ours!

(interview by darkestdweller / K.I.)