Since our first interview in 2003 you have developed as a band as well as in live experiences, by gigs with eminent bands such as Opeth, Katatonia and Paradise Lost. What were the feelings in the band when you stood on the same stage as your favourite bands?
It was an incredible experience! Straight after the release of our first album, we were invited to tour with all these bands. A real honour I must say! It helped us a lot to improve ourselves, as we had to rehearse intensely in order to be ready to enter the professional scene this way. But it was also sometimes hard: all this work finally discouraged Franck Metayer, our previous drummer, who felt he was loosing the “funny side” of playing music. Anyway these shows enabled us to perform in front of very receptive big audiences in several European countries.
After the release of the previous album 'The Perpetual Motion' you did a European tour with Epica. Was this the longest tour so far and are there some memories you want to share with us?
We played a fifteen gigs tour together with Epica. It has been a very good choice for both of us. I mean they were looking for a serious support act in France and we wanted to come back again in Belgium and the Netherlands and play bigger venues there. Epica's band members and crew were very nice to us. Even the audience that was much “female singer oriented” welcomed us warmly. I think that both bands try to combine extreme metal with melodies and atmospheres. They don't do it the same way but I think we are complementary and that's why we fit together. That may certainly explain why this tour was so successful.
It must have been a shock to hear that co-founding member, guitarist and dear friend Nicolas Chevrollier was going to leave the band. Why did he decide to leave?
Nicolas was feeling really tired for more than one year. Touring intensively was not easy for him. He has always aimed to live a quiet life in a restful place. When his wife got pregnant he realised that he would never be able to handle both these ways to live. It has been an important loss, as Nicolas is a very close friend and he used to compose the half of the music parts in the band. I felt really alone after that. I lost someone I really trusted and I had to build a completely new relationship with Gilles Moinet, our new guitar player, while recording the album. Anyway Nicolas and I wrote five songs together for 'The Water Fields' and Gilles also brought excellent new elements. Now I feel really confident and very proud with the final result!
How did you get in contact with new guitarist Gilles Moinet and can you tell a bit more about his musical background?
We arranged audition sessions and met about thirty guitarists. Gilles was by far the best choice we could make! We were looking for a guy able to write good music, playing lead guitar parts with feelings… Furthermore, we were also looking for someone who would also live the same kind of way we do. The Old Dead Tree is very far away the usual metal music lifestyle. We don't drink a lot, we never jam, and we all try to deal with a real family life... Gilles does fit definitely to the band on all points. He comes from the French doom metal scene and also plays in a band called Lux Incerta together with Penumbra's bass player. We share many influences in common but he also listens to the eighties gothic and new wave scene.
He brought new influences and I can hear that he has a different way of playing. Can you compare the style of Nicolas with the style of Gilles? What are – in your opinion – the differences?
Gilles is technically an excellent guitar player. He has an incredible “feeling” and a deep sense of melody. Nicolas was more focused on arrangements, on finding the better way to make all instruments fit together. He was also more interested in the studio process. Gilles is really highly motivated and involved in all the aspects of the band.
The Old Dead Tree lyrics are always deep-draught and contemplative. 'The Water Fields' has a main theme. Can you tell a bit more about the concept and the lyrics of this album?
This title is based upon an imaginary place where one finds refuge from pain and everyday doubts. This is a concept album about avoidance, kidding oneself, and the urge we have to hide from reality and to remain passive when facing difficult life experiences.
and to remain passive when we are on tenterhooks...” we are on tenterhooks...”
Where and when did you get the idea for this theme?
Before writing the lyrics of our new album 'The Water Fields', I would have definite lyrics as a very “selfish” way to deal with my personal questions and problems. But things were different this time, as I tried focusing more on the people around me: my relatives, my friends, my family. Maybe it is a bit silly, but after the release of our second album, 'The Perpetual Motion', I realised that too many people I never met before knew all about my intimate feelings and pains. That's why I wanted the 'The Water Fields' lyrics to be “other people” oriented. Observing them, I tried to analyse the way they react to a serious problem. I realised that, the first reflex people have when confronted to pain is to hide or to run away from it. That's how I imagined this common imaginary place, a kind of safe haven where we can rest: The Water Fields.
Are there different kinds of art that inspire you to make music, for instance books or paintings?
Human behaviour is definitely my main inspiration source. Arts are just ways to describe it. I use to read a lot, I also studied Art History and I love watching movies - even if I have less time now that I'm a proud father!
Since the beginning you work with Andy Classen at the Stage One Studio. Can you tell some details about working with him and your friendship with Andy?
We know Andy for five years. We recorded three albums with him in Germany @ the Stage One Studio. We built a strong relationship based on confidence by now. He is one of the best producers in Europe to me and his work on 'The Water Fields' proves it once again. The sound he made for our music is wide, powerful and precise in the same time. It was not easy, as he had to deal with loads of details within the new songs. I can remember him grumbling because of the sixty tracks he had to mix together for the song 'Rise To The Occasion'.
Never thought about working with another producer, just to have a different experience?
The band's life was a real mess all along the composing process. We had to face Nicolas departure, Gilles arrival, two births and also a management change. As I told you before, Andy is a producer we do trust fully. He really knows the band and we also really know and appreciate him. Coming back to Stage One Studio was also a way to find a shelter in the storm. It was definitely not the right moment for taking a risk. Working with Andy again made us feel very confident about the result and that was priceless at this time.
You have quite a lot live experience by now. What were the highlights until now concerning live shows?
The last Parisian show with Nicolas was full of emotion. The audience was really amazing, everybody knew that a page was about to be turned. It will definitely stays in my mind as one of the most important shows we performed.
Do you prefer to play club gigs or at festivals?
It always depends on the conditions, but I would say that both situations are good experiences. I mean I do really appreciate direct contacts with the people when playing small venues. But performing at a festival and hearing the crowd shouting between the songs is also very exciting.
At the end of the year you will start a new tour. Please tell us everything about it…
We have a 23 gigs tour coming by the end of the year. We will of course come back to Belgium and the Netherlands but we will also tour Germany, Switzerland, France and Portugal. We didn't play “live” for one year and let me tell you that we really miss this! We really look forward to play new material and try to mix it with our previous albums.
In which countries are you most successful?
France comes first, but we also have a strong fan base in Benelux and Switzerland. 'The Water Fields' received very good reviews in Germany and our show at Wave Gotik Treffen in 2006 opened new gates for us there. We love touring so I hope we'll be back in the tour bus as much as possible in 2008!
One of the main qualities of the band are your exceptional vocals, going from very emotional and clean to really harsh growls. On the new record you even improved and I can hear a wider range. Manuel, can you tell something about the development in singing through the years?
We toured a lot to promote our second album 'The Perpetual Motion' in 2005 - 2006 and I realized that my voice couldn't stand playing too many gigs in a row because of those changes. So I had to take medicines like cortisone. Let's agree that it's not a good way to manage such a problem. I've been meeting singing teachers, doctors and finally I had thirty sessions with a speech therapist who taught me how to breath and speak correctly. Along this eight months period, I totally stopped singing during the rehearsals in order to forget my bad habits. Today I feel much more comfortable and confident. Now I think that both of my clean and screamed vocals sound more natural and less controlled. I'm really proud of the result you can hear on this new album.
What are your favourite albums at the moment? What are the band members listening to?
It always changes, but I recently discovered Red Harvest, a band from Sweden playing a dark industrial metal. They really rock! Vincent, for his part, can't stop playing My Dying Bride in his car. Gilles is still in love with “Monotheist” from Celtic Frost and Foued listens to extreme metal I would not even be able to describe hehe…
Did you ever shoot a videoclip for a song or are there plans in that direction?
We're in touch with Julien Metternich regarding a video for the song 'Dive'. He already shot our previous videos and we really trust him. He knows the band for a long time and he really involves himself in his work. Anyway, the lyrics of this song are about homosexuality and I guess that's not an easy topic to deal with.
What struck me was that 'The Perpetual Motion' ended with the instrumental song 'This Is No Farewell', while 'The Water Fields' occludes with 'This Is Now Farewell'. What is the deeper signification behind this?
It is about Nicolas leaving the band. He was involved in the composing process of 'The Water Fields' and this song really closes this chapter of the band's history. The page has to be turned even if Nicolas remains one of my best friends.
Who did the artwork this time? And maybe some words about the twenty pages booklet we get with the special edition…
I sent the title and the general concept of the album to a lot of designers around the world. We received many propositions, but Eliran Kantor's job was definitely the most original. He created a vintage cover apart from the current metal artworks. All the others designers focused on the idea of water. Eliran was the only one who tried to figure the real sense of the concept. He imagined a character surrounded by problems, everyday life and family affairs, looking into a reflecting ground representing the Water Fields. I think that Eliran is very talented and has a great future as a designer.
What are your plans for the near future?
We're currently working very hard in order to be able to adapt our new songs to the “live” conditions. There are so many different melodies and details in our music that we sometimes have to make some choices or to use samples. We really want our shows to be as perfect as possible. Our fans want to feel the same emotions that they feel on the albums. That's a real challenge! We are going to be very busy with the European tour until the end of the year.
The Old Dead Tree may be labelled as gothic metal most of the time, but of course there is so much more into your music. What are your experiences with fans? To which crowd do you mainly appeal?
We toured with different bands and even if, almost naturally, our music pleases most of Opeth's and Paradise Lost's fans, our shows with Epica also brought new type of fans to us. We also played with a French modern thrash metal band called Dagoba in front of very young metalhead fans. There's also another way to analyse the kind of people touched by our music: the media's. As we are currently promoting this new album, I can tell you that I already had interviews with metal magazines and webzines of course, but also gothic, progressive, etc. So our usual audience is very wide and therefore quite hard to describe… I cannot even define a “typical fan” of the band!
And what would you dearly achieve pretty soon with the band, now that the third album is out?
Conquering the world still ranks n°1 in my “things to do before I'm 30” list… but I think I won't have enough time for that! More seriously, I can say that touring and promoting this album is our priority right now. I would be really happy to tour even more in 2008 and to take part in big festivals in Europe and in the United States.
If there is any other news we should mention, go ahead!
We worked incredibly hard in writing and recording this album. We feel really proud with the result so I hope that people will appreciate it as much as we do. Thanks for your support and see you on the road!
I am looking forward to it!