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Vorige maand werd ik aangenaam verrast door de tweede cd van het Franse Anthropia, 'The Chain Reaction'. Een conceptplaat gevuld met prachtige progrock met een metalen randje. Muziek van het allerhoogste niveau. De band is het geesteskind van Hugues Lefebvre, een jonge Fransman die de touwtjes stevig in handen heeft in 'zijn' band'. Hoe ziet Hugues het verleden, heden en de toekomst van Anthropia? Ik heb het hem maar eens gevraagd.

Door: Wim S. | Archiveer onder prog / sympho metal

Hello, Hugues, Ça va?
Hello Wim, I am fine and you? I am actually a bit tired because of all the things I have to take care of for Anthropia. But what can I say, this is my passion, so I am happy before being tired. Plus, I think that The Chain Reaction is a strong album, so I am very confident about the future.

A colleague of mine did an interview with you after the release of your debut album 'The Ereyn Chronicles Part I'. How did the press react to that album?
Very well actually. This first album got very good reviews from all sides, it even got 'the album of the month' title in Rock Hard France. That made me very happy of course as you can imagine. I am very impatient now to see the reaction of the press on the new album and to show that this good feeling about Anthropia was not just luck.

What happened after the release of that debut album; did you tour a lot? And if so, did you tour in your native country France only, or also elsewhere?
We did maybe about ten shows here in France. We were in contact with many tour agencies, but it never really lead up to a real tour. That was a bit disappointing somehow. The band was really ready and the show perfectly prepared. I think that things would have been different if the band was German, English, or even Dutch because France is not a great place for metal. For this second album we will try to focus our efforts abroad.

On the debut album you played all the instruments yourself, except for the drums. Was it a conscious choice or could you not find the right musicians?
Back then, I did not want to spend too much energy searching for band members, I first focused on the composition of the songs. I believe in “fate”, and if you have to meet the right person at the right time, it will happen, that is my philosophy. So yes it was a conscious choice. I already found Damien for the drums and I could play the guitar, the bass and sing. 'The Ereyn Chronicles Part One' would have been very delayed if I had to search for band members before these sessions.

You have now released your second album 'The Chain Reaction'. First thing that strikes me is the fact that you now work with a band. Is Anthropia a real band now? Can you tell us something about the (musical) background of the other members?
Absolutely, Anthropia is now a “real” band ! And I am very happy about it. After 'The Ereyn Chronicles Part One' release, I had the opportunity to meet a large number of musicians. I also played in another band with Damien at that time, and there I met Yann Mouhad. I was really impressed by his self-taught technique and we got along very well, so he naturally entered Anthropia. It was also very important to me to find another singer to share the voice parts, so that I could focus a bit more on the guitar on stage. At that time I visited a 'In Vitraux' gig in Nice, and I was really impressed by Nathalie's voice. I had found my co-singer in Anthropia. Finally, some people suggested that I should ask Julien Negro to play the bass. He is also the bass player of Lord Of Mushrooms and is very comfortable with any bass (six or seven strings, fretless) I am actually very proud of my team, they are certainly among the best musicians of the French Riviera!

For you as a musician, what is the biggest difference between the two albums? Is it an advantage having a band around you, so you do not have to concentrate on everything?
I think 'The Chain Reaction' is more mature than its predecessor. Do not misunderstand me, I am very proud of 'The Ereyn Chronicles Part One', but I was quite young when I composed these songs (22), and when I listen to them now, I regret some parts. During the last five years I have met a lot of musicians and have worked at a professional level. It obviously influenced my ideas and style of composing. But anyway, I am still a 'young padawan' in the music domain, and I still need to learn a lot of things. Somehow I can not wait to work on the third album, explore again new ideas and concepts. Besides, it is clearly more comfortable to me to have a band around me. I only need to focus on the voice and my guitar parts during recording sessions, the other members being very talented and inspired to play their parts.

You wrote all the material for the album, both music and lyrics, by yourself. Why did the other members not contribute to the songs? Are you the real leader of the band, the one person that makes decisions? Is it possible that the other members write songs in the future?
Yes, I think you can say I am the 'leader' of the band, even if I do not like the word, because for some people a leader equals an asshole. I am very understanding and easy-going in my 'leader' role, the reason why I composed nearly all music and lyrics of 'The Chain Reaction' is this : when Anthropia became a real band, 75% of the album was already composed ! And I knew exactly what I wanted for the 25% left. For the next album, I would be happy to rest a bit while the others compose some songs.

'The Chain Reaction' is a concept album. Did you have the story in your head before you started writing the songs or did the idea of a concept album came during the writing process? What is the main difference between writing an 'regular/normal' album and a concept album?
The difference is that I can not write any song without a concept/story in mind. For me music is like movies: it has to tell something, and more importantly, it has to make you feel something. And my opinion is that the listener would feel more emotions if he identifies with the hero of a story. I am also a big fan of role playing games so I like tell and hear stories. I am a very 'structured' person, so before every album I write the whole concept and determine which part could make an interesting song. Then I gather all the ideas recorded on my computer and try to assign them to the more appropriate song. This could take a while, but it is really comfortable afterwards : you really know where you go. It may sound very mechanical, but that is basically the way I work for now. Maybe I will be tired of it someday and start writing my songs in an anarchic way.

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The story of 'The Chain Reaction' is quite difficult to follow and to understand. Can you tell us in your own words what the story is about?
In two words: in this story, we meet a soul who is fed up with always doing nicely what he is told : in his next life, he will do exactly what he wants. Unfortunately, this behaviour and the tragic loss of his kindred soul will lead to an unexpected and tragic outcome. I let you discover it by reading the lyrics and booklet. The main subject of the album is the loss of faith felt by someone who experienced tragic events in his life.

In my review of the album I notice that the music of the band reminds me of Pain Of Salvation, especially the 'One Hour By The Concrete Lake' ,'The Perfect Element' and the 'Remedy Lane' era. Do you recognize that comparison?
Well, I am a real fan of Daniel's (Gildenlöw) writing and 'Remedy Lane' is one of the best albums of all time (most depressive too, so I take it as compliment). But I am not sure you can say that about all the songs of The Chain Reaction. For example, 'The Altar Of Trust' has nothing to do with Pain of Salvation. I think that Anthropia is a mix of all of my influences (Pain Of Salvation, Symphony X, Megadeth, Angra, Ayreon) and the music resulting has its own 'touch' and style. That is how I see Anthropia.

The structure of the songs is quite complex and you use a lot of different sounds. Can you play all the songs of the album live or do you have to use a DAT-recorder or other techniques to get the same sound as the cd? For example, will someone play the string arrangements live?
At the present time, we use a MAC to play all the part that we cannot play on stage. He is our sixth man in Anthropia and is very reliable. Actually we always try to play the maximum we can on stage, even if it was not initially planned : for example some keyboards parts are played by Yann, some guitar melodies sung by Nath, etc. these kind of things. For the moment it is more comfortable for us to work like this, but in the future… who knows? It could be interesting to have a keyboard player on stage.

What is your opinion about (metal) music in general and what music does inspire you?Any favourite musicians?
I do not listen very much to new bands these days. Of course some of them must be great, but I have the feeling that each band tries to play faster and more violent than the other… I have the impression that they all sound alike. For me, music is not a “violence competition”, because you know, you will always find people playing louder and faster than you. For me music is melody, creativity, originality… whatever the tempo or the degree of violence of the song. I guess I am too old-fashioned. Concerning my favourite musicians, it's the same story. I do not pay much attention to technique anymore, I pay attention to feelings, emotions transmitted to the listener. I could say Daniel Gildenlöw, Arjen Lucassen, Kiko Loureiro, John Macaluso, Bruce Dickinson.

Responsible for the cover art is the Irokkoi Agency. I have never heard of them but they did a really fine job. Can you tell us a bit more about them?
Absolutely. I have been working with Irokkoi since the beginning of Anthropia. They created for us the cover of our albums, but also our websites, promo pictures, video teasers and clip. They are actually the perfect partner for any band. We are currently working with them on our new video (on the song 'The Altar Of Trust'), which should be done in April. All information about Irokkoi on !

Tommy Hansen was responsible for mastering the album at the Jailhouse Studio and the band (I think you Hugo!) did the production itself. Together with Tommy you did a great job, because the album sounds really great, especially the acoustic parts sound brilliant I think. How did you get in touch with Tommy and what did he add to your music?
I was in contact with good mastering studios in US, when Sebb Camhi (the engineer of the Artmusic Studio, where the album has been recorded) advised me to contact Tommy. I can say he is a really cool guy, even if I did not meet him physically. He is also approachable even though he has worked with legendary people like Helloween. What can I add? His mastering sounds really great, it brought a really high gain, and “punchy” side to the sound. The guitars are really 'in your face' and that is what I wanted for the album. But the quality of the album is also due to the great work of Sebb at Artmusic Studio (also the drummer of Sideblast), and of François Merle who mixed the album. François is the guitarist of the french band Manigance and it was great to meet him, as I am a big fan of the band.
I was the person in charge of the realisation of the album, but these guys also deserve credits.

What are the plans for the near future? Are you going to tour across Europe? And if so, as a supporting act or your own tour?
It would be great to tour across Europe. We are currently in contact with some book agencies, so we will see. Again, the band is really ready and full of energy of giving good sound on stage. The fact is that the music business is a big mess right now and tour managers are quite 'defensive' in accepting new bands to their roster. Well anyway, we will work as hard as possible to do it!

Merci bien Hugo. To end this interview, anything you want to say to our readers?
Merci à toi Wim. I just want to thank all the people who support Anthropia and hope to see them soon at our gigs !

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