Hello We Insist! First my compliments for your new album 'Oh! Things Are So Corruptible'. Before we delve into this new album, I want to introduce you to the Dutch audience a little bit more, so could you tell something about the band?
The band is twelve years old, pretty old isn't it! And almost the same line up. Actually the real former We Insist! musician is Julien Divisia the guitar player. We had in the beginning a trombone player and a trumpet player and we didn't even played rock music. Cyrille the baryton and alto sax player joined in in 2001. It took us a long time to find out exactly what type of music we wanted to play. When me, Julien Allanic and Eric came in the band in 1996, we came up with new influences and some weird rock ideas. It took us 6 years before 'Inner Pond' to reach the beginnings of a maturity. A long time. The rest of the history of the band is on CD.
'Oh! Things Are So Corruptible' is not your first album. You made two albums before this one: 'Inner Pond' (2002) and 'Crude' (2004). I haven't heard these albums, so could you tell me more about the musical development you guys have gone through?
Actually we made 3 albums before OTASC, the first one was released in 2000. We don't have any albums left from this period, and we don't want to print it again, it was a just the basic form of the band.
Your influences are mentioned on the back of the promo, and this was the first time that I found such a description accurate. You mentioned bands like Queens Of The Stoneage, Tool, At The Drive-In and Primus. I do miss The Mars Volta. Is that because At The Drive-In is already mentioned?
Yeah that's the right answer! In fact we like some of the Mars Volta stuff, but it's going too far in a technical and progressive-rock direction. I think their music is highly evolved and very complex. Probably a whole lot of the new Mars Volta fans don't understand shit about what they're doing. It is very interesting but something is missing... A to-the-point aim... Or the At-the-drive-in energy which was phenomenal!
'Being Mature does not necessarily mean being old'. Do you consider your latest album as your most mature release? Should we see 'Inner Pond' as an infant, 'Crude' as the teenager and 'Oh! Things Are So Corruptible' as the grown up version of We Insist?
You got it! But how could you say that if you didn't hear the albums? I think if I had the courage to listen to them again I would say so. 'Inner Pond' was a pretty good production and we worked very hard on the recording and the mixing. It was the first time we could concentrate that long on a recording and mixing process. The result is a bit cold and a bit too much thought out. 'Crude' was the exact inverse, we recorded it pretty fast, we wanted it loud and urgent. The problem was the mix which took us too much time. We made big mistakes on that one, probably teenager mistakes. Still it's a good album.
I do not have any lyrics, but you seem to me the kind of band that doesn't write simple 'I got the girl'-lyrics. Could you explain a little bit more about the subjects you touch in your lyrics?
The subjects are very wide. And we don't really want them to be understandable. That's why we didn't think it was a good idea to put them in the cd. 'Crude' had the lyrics in the booklet. Teenager mistake? You could tell. They're often based on intimacy purposes, or funny ideas, or just telling a simple story that we feel like getting along pretty well with the atmosphere of the music, or make us laugh (like 'Imperial Catechism' for example). Anyway this a very hard question and we' don't consider ourselves as songwriters. No protest song, no political ideas, no poetry. We're singing our ass off because we want to do it and still we don't want the audience to sing along : “I got the girl, she's beautiful (or very ugly)”...In fact some of our label mates made fun of us singing along in the van 'Te-le-phone' or 'No coward soul is mine' during the Blisstrain tour. THAT was funny...
'Imperial Catechism' is by far the heaviest tune on your album, but again with this strange arrangement. We Insist insists on being musically daring? Or is this just the way your material turns out?
Well both answers at the same time. Our music turns out always to be weird. But this is because we never wanted it to be normal, or too easy to understand. We want to write short and direct songs, but on the other hand this isn't suppose to be pop, or metal, or hard-core, or anything. We want it to be daring for ourselves first, because if there isn't any surprise or danger for us, there surely won't be any for the audience.
The aforementioned song does remind me a lot of Mr. Bungle and then especially their debut. Is Mr. Bungle a band that influenced We Insist?
Well we've been listening to that material of course, because it's geat music, but we don't think that our stuff is really related to Mr. Bungle, despite the fact that it's weird and changing a lot. It's like when people say that there is some jazz influences in We Insist! Yes! the name of the band comes from a radical Black Panther jazz album (Max Roach) but just try to ask the two saxophone players (who play jazz music in other bands) if they think We Insist! is related in any way to jazz music...
Your admiration for Primus takes shape in the song 'The Great Disorder', which is one of my favourites as well. Has Les Claypool heard from you and responded to your music?
No! I think I remember sending a demo some years ago to Prawn Song, but of course no response came up from there. Primus IS A GREAT band, Julien Allanic is a big fan of Claypool, and our favourite DVD in the van during the tour with Beehoover was : 'Animals should not try to act like people' (yes we had a DVD player in the van! Lucky French guys with a fucking expensive rental van that ate almost all of our fees...) But hey! Are you sure it's “The Great Disorder” you wanted to talk about... I can't see any Primus influences in that one.
'Half Awake' has this unmistakable 'Mars Volta'-feel. Does your music attract fans from this band?
Maybe this one has got some Primus feeling. Yeah a lot of people refer to Mars Volta but it's probably because of a certain weirdness and the fact that there's more than 4 musicians in the band and a lot information coming in at the same time. I think Mars Volta today, with the addition of Thomas Pridgent, has got the most incredible musicians you could find in North America. We're only French guys and not even trying to technically demonstrate anything.
In 'Down To The Cellar' you guys show us how HEAVY a saxophone can sound. How important is the saxophone in the total sound of We Insist?
Yes, as you can hear it's very important, but we're always trying to find different ways of mixing the saxophones sound in our music, trying to avoid the bad use of this instrument in many many progressive-rock bands back in the 70's and 80's. That why now they use amplifiers and pedal boards to melt in the sound of the guitars and the bass.
You recorded the album at the Black Box Studio with Peter Deimel, who has worked with Chokebore, Deus, Les Thugs and Sloy. Not the least of names. How did you get in contact with Peter, and how did things work out with him?
Well our good friend and sound engineer “d2r2off” had heard a lot about this guy before and we were looking for very different sound that the one we got on 'Inner Pond' and 'Crude'. I got in contact with Peter and sent him a cd, he was interested in our project and we agreed on a week of work together. This guy is amazing! He was listening so much and so intensely to our sound! Always searching for the right sound for every different tune. For example he got mad the last day on 'Early Recollections', we played the tune once or twice and he was looking for a very precise guitar sound, it took maybe 3 or 4 hours trying many amplifiers, he finally was happy with an old Sovtek (?) amp head... That's what Julien was using for this song, the result is beautiful.
You are drummer AND vocalist. That sounds like a very difficult combination, or does it seem that way because I can't play drums?
It took some time to work out on this. Now it's getting more and more natural and we think we don't need to look for a proper lead singer any more. I even start to like it that way...
Can you tell me something more about the mysterious cover art for 'Oh! Things Are So Corruptible'? What for instance is with the Cyclops who wears red lipstick?
One of our friends did all of our artwork, and when he knew we were working on a new CD he sent to Julien a funny drawing of his which was similar to the one that's on the cd. We all thought it was pretty funny and very different from his previous work. The rest of the story is a bit painful because we had to decide on using this picture or not. We're a very democratic band and democracy is very hard to run when you're six people, what about a few millions.... In the end we're all very happy with it and that's what really matters.
You were already on the road for 'Oh! Things Are So Corruptible' and to my greatest dismay you played even in The Netherlands on march 9th. I would really have visited that concert, but I got your promo far beyond that date. How did the concert go and could the Dutch audience appreciate your sound?
Well the W2 was very very special for many reasons. It was the 3rd time we played there and we were coming back this time with the BLISSTRAIN: five bands from Exile on Mainstream on the road together for a very special show. A lot of collaborations between the bands. We had to headline (or play last) that day and it was the last show after eight shows! It turned out to be overloaded with emotions. The end of the show with 'Early Recollections' with all of the bands on stage was crazy (18 musicians!). I hope people really enjoyed this moment because we did 100%. The party after the show was as crazy as that finale. “And the circus leaves town...”
Is there any possibility we see We Insist! in The Netherlands in the near future?
Yeah of course we'll come back, I haven't asked our good man Bidi from Bidibooking when we'll be playing next time, but stay tuned...
Well this wraps it up for me. Thanks for the interview and the final words are yours.
It's very late now (3:30) I think I will have the last cigarette and go to bed... Sorry for being late with answering. Thanks for listening to our stuff and I hope you'll be satisfied with my answers. See you soon somewhere in Netherlands for a beer... [make it a glass of water and we are in business, ed.]