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Persefone

Situated in the mountains between France and Spain, small and a soccer team that is below par. That’s what most people will know about Andorra. Apart from these facts the country also holds a group of musicians, being Persefone, that delivers one fine album after the other. After some initial shows and tours in the past, time has come to tour Europe in a fortnight as a headliner. Prior to the show in Nijmegen there was time to have a good conversation with these fine gentlemen. Just as on their albums there is a collaboration during the interview where all present have their say.

By: Hendrik Attema | Archive under prog / sympho metal

To meet the requirements of the record company, Persefone were more or less obliged to find ways to gather the needed additional money.
“We started a crowdfunding campaign that turned out extremely well. One of the requirements of the company was that we would bring a decent amount of money before we could start recording. Although we exceeded the original goal (Hendrik: in the end by over 50%), we still had to put in some of our own money. And yes, that makes it also more “our” record as we did that. We wanted to have the best for this record on all levels. So that includes the recording, mixing mastering and the artwork.”

Although it was quite early I already spotted some backers in front of the building. How do show your gratitude to them?
“Nice you noticed. Well, when we see people wearing the limited-edition shirts or hoodies we always take a little bow to them. They invested their money into our project and without them ‘Aathma’ would not have been possible. We are really grateful for that and as you mentioned we exceeded the expectations which is a good sign for us that we have a good following.”

So far I have heard the vinyl version and the version on Spotify. They seem to sound as if they have a different mastering, where you also refrained from the loudness-war.
“Correct, like we said we wanted the best also regarding the mastering. So there is different mastering for the vinyl version and the digital forms. Because of the details in the music and the amount of instruments and people involved we really wanted to prevent that we would and up with an undefinable loud sounding album. Jens Borgen did an outstanding job there and we were delighted to work with him.”

‘Aathma’ is the fifth record for you guys. So for it has received mostly positive reviews, although one or the other might prefer ‘Spiritual Migration’. Is that something you take into account when creating the setlist for this tour?
“This tour is our first real headlining tour and we want to present a good overview of our catalogue. We chose songs from ‘Shin-ken’, ‘Spiritual Migration’ and ‘Aathma’ and included songs that we felt fit for purpose. You’re right when you miss ‘Aathma’ (the song, HA) and we were already discussing on including that in the setlist and omit a song from ‘Shin-ken’, but that’s more a luxury problem. Over the course of the past dates we found songs that worked really well, but we left the setlist somewhat untouched. On the next tour we will certainly have something different to present.”

Right then. The first song released upon us was “Prison Skin”. Apart from an amazing arrangement, the lyrics give us some insight into ‘Aathma’. At least I assumed that ‘Aathma’ is a concept album.
“It is a concept album. ‘Prison Skin’ is more or less the introduction to the record after the two short instrumental intro songs. It’s describing the feelings of a being trapped in his body, hence ‘Prison Skin’. The next songs delve deeper into the process of being freed from this prison. ‘You’re not your face. You’re not the name you’ve been given” is in that sense a description of how you could look at a (human) being, it’s more than just the outside.

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Another song I would like to pin point is ‘Living Waves’. It’s a collaboration with Paul Masvidal who contributed vocals and a solo. Where did you meet him and did he have any input on your lyrical theme?
“We met him back in in 2015 at the Euroblast festival in Cologne. It was a strange atmosphere because of the problems Cynic encountered to make the gig happen. We spoke with him about several topics and he has a deep insight on the spiritual aspects of life. As you know him personally you will understand it had an impact on us and on the way we looked at things. After the show we kept in touch. When we were preparing the album we hooked up with him and exchanged ideas on the lyrics and such. He helped us shape some parts of ‘Aathma’ and made a very welcome contribution on ‘Living Waves’.”

’Living Waves’ sounded to me as a reference to the never-ending process of waves being waves, then breaking, return to be part of the ocean and then becoming waves again. At least that’s how I explained it to my offspring.
“That’s an interesting observation although not what we envisioned. It’s more that a wave is not just a wave, it’s an integral part of the ocean and thus the one cannot be separated from the other. In our lyrics we try to show that one should look outside the “wave” and feel that you’re part of the bigger picture. But it’s always cool to hear different views on that and also that you have talks on that level with your kids.”

The closing track ‘Aathma’ consists of four parts and clocking at around 20 minute it is trip on it’s own.
“This is where it all comes together. When you realise your soul is more than just the body it holds you can finds ways of freeing yourself. That can be on various levels and for people in a different way. As you noticed it reconnects back to ‘Prison Skin’ where you might look at the trap and then see that there”s more outside that trap.” (This triggers a side discussion during which we elaborate on views of the Universe or maybe the Multiverse)

On closing: what have you learned from your previous tours with the likes of Obituary and Leprous?
“We learned a lot from the Obituary guys and their entourage! For the record: Donald, John and Ralph Santolla were most kind to us on that tour. Ralph was a real gentleman and has a lot of stories to tell. Donald and John gave us decent advice and offered us help where we needed and always said that we needed to ask if we wanted to know more. We were given a hard time by some of their crew with remarks like “Oh you new boys, you know nothing” or just “Amateurs!” whenever we make a mistake. Almost halfway through that tour we set together as a band and concluded that we needed to step up. From then on we were always on time, prepared and would show how determined we were to make the tour a success. We got the thumbs up afterwards!”

After that I leave the band to their preparations for the show. Just as I’m packing my stuff I get a tap on the shoulder from Miguel a.k.a. Moe who wants to show me the progress of the artwork prior to the final version.
As we drop back into our seats in the excellent facilitated Doornroosje, Moe pulls out his cell phone and we dive into the artwork. When you look at the artwork on (preferably) the vinyl version there’s a lot of details to be found. Moe is so kind as to show the initial ideas from Travis Smith and how in collaboration with the band they tried different ideas. The original was more blue-toned, they played around with the butterflies and most strikingly (pun intended) the way the sphere breaks open. Another example was the addition of flames to the bottom, which was rightfully omitted as it would have been too much for the cover. So if Ramon Oscuro Martos is looking for new artwork for the next “…And Justice For Art”-book, here’s one.

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