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Na een uiterst goed ontvangen album ('In A Flesh Aquarium' uit 2007) en een persoonlijike uitnodiging voor Dream Theater's ProgNation Tour van Mike Portnoy zou je verwachten dat het balletje eindelijk voor je begint te rollen in de muziekwereld. Wat is echter de eerstvolgende stap van het Canadese circusmetalcollectief unexpecT? Een album volledig in eigen beheer opnemen, uitbrengen en distribueren. Het heeft dan ook even geduurd voordat het nieuwe 'Fables Of The Sleepless Empire' uit kwam. Maar zoals men dan zegt, dan heb je ook wat. Gitarist/schreeuwlelijk SyriaK vertelt aan Lords of Metal alle ins en outs over het nieuwe album en de totstandkoming ervan.

Door: Richard G. | Archiveer onder different metal

First off congratulations with the realization of your new album 'Fables Of The Sleepless Empire'! How is Unexpect doing at the moment?
Thanks, we're doing great ! Our last passage in August at the Brutal Assault Festival in Czech Republic was a success, the reviews we've been getting for FOTSE are amazing and people are really getting into it ! It's a more focused version of what we've always been doing without losing our essence. If think that by now, people know that we like to experiment and evolve into something different, so I'm glad to see that older fans seem to follow the new paths we try and we also manage to get more and more people to like our out-of-the-box brand of music. I see our musical career as some kind of pilgrimage; a long winding path with lots of complex sharp turns, but we manage to gather people from everywhere and from every scenes all along the way...once they jump in, they're aware they're not getting to travel the easy path, but those are usually the most rewarding at the end. We go for the long term kind of relationship with our fans...not the fast food type where bands play what is trendy at the moment to get bigger audiences but then lose their shine when the trend goes elsewhere. We'll always use our creativity with authenticity no matter where it takes us!

Quite some time has passed between the new album and your previous album 'In A Flesh Aquarium'. Why was this so? What happened?
A lot of touring followed the release of In A Flesh Aquarium. We did something like 8 North American Tours and 2 European ones including the Progressive Nation Tour 2009 with Dream Theater & Opeth. I can't say that it's easy for us to compose on the road and there's already so much time took by touring and the whole period that follows a tour when you get back home to a “normal” life and try to navigate between day jobs to survive. Exod also left the band to pursue his personal project. We parted like friends and knew he would leave almost one year and a half before the act, but we've had to work with him and record all the sequences that would replace him for the live shows…rehearsing with the new setup took a while too. There's also the fact that we took our good friend and soundman extraordinaire Jef Fortin by surprise and asked him at the last minute if he was into recording our album…his schedule being always booked almost a year in advance, he still managed to squeeze us in between different projects, but it meant that we had to record and mix the album at various times over 2009. And of course, the fact of releasing the album independently had to do with it. There was a lot to figure out to correctly release the album internationally by ourselves. I gained a lot of experience from this so next time should be easier. ;)

In our previous interview you mentioned that the creative process for Unexpect is always rather arduous. Was this also the case for 'FotSE'? What was the hardest part?
Well, at one point Landryx got abducted by aliens so it kind of made it harder for us to focus…but they returned him… said he ate all their food reserves and snored too much hahaha. If not for that, it went pretty much easier than before. Everybody contributed their efforts even more than before and it resulted in what you hear now. There's a lot of personal work done at home and when we get together the creative chemistry is definitely at its top! I could rightfully say that when we really get to it, it doesn't take so much time for us to compose and get results, the main problem is to find times in between our personal lives and touring to do it.

Did the critical acclaim that your previous album received put extra pressure on the creative process?
Not for me, and I think I can talk for the whole band here. We DID get tremendous reviews for IAFA and it only pushed our motivation a step further instead of impeding it. When creating, we don't really think about what we've done before and what is expected of us. The mentality we have is to go forward and use the present moments, so even when we use older riffs or ideas found in the dust, they're remodeled to our present tastes. That's what makes our sound I guess…it's always a mix of the past, present, future and beyond. ;)

According to you, in which department has Unexpect booked the most progression compared to the previous album?
I think all the members have evolved personally over the last years so it's hard to tell. I think all aspects actually progressed, but if you want more details, I guess that the bass is one of them. The fact that this album is the first Chaoth recorded with his 9 strings bass really makes a difference. He only had his 7 strings at the time we recorded IAFA and reworked all the parts afterwards to adapt them on his 9 strings bass when he got it later. This time, he had is full weapon cocked and loaded at the time of the recording so he went wilder than usual. There's also a lot more strings arrangements on FOTSE. Borboën, having studied at the Montreal Conservatory of music, is quite the composer and had fun adding layers upon layers of strings & viola. Leïlindel is also really more present on this album and added a lot of diversity to her singing. We worked extremely hard together on all the vocals arrangements to make them interesting, non linear and filled with emotional charges!

The title of the album alludes to insomnia inspired tales (though this interpretation could be miles off). What kinds of topics are addressed in the lyrics on the new album?
As always, my style of writing is especially on the metaphorical and surrealist side of the looking glass. There's a lot of double meanings, personification (giving life to objects, animals or faculties) and deep thoughts, but there's also a dose of pure literary fun… it's a bit like our music, I love it when the Rational and the Absurd collide for a grand meeting of organized chaos hosted by Infinity. For example in general, without going into the details, a song like 'Unfed Pendulum' is about an imagination losing its inspiration… a mind losing its resources to standardization. I guess it's a definite pleonasm to create lyrics and talk about creativity but well…that's me hehehe. Another example would be 'Mechanical Phoenix', which is about the eternal confrontation between the creative free-thinkers of this world and the corporate establishment who'd like nothing more than having individual beings develop into submissive clones for an easier control. Tools of their trade…the living stock-market. All those subjects are of course treated in a story-like surreal way, with metaphors, lots of winks and a plethora of dreamlike images.

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What do you want your listeners to take away from your lyrics (if anything)?
If first of all they have enjoyed themselves reading them I'm already quite happy. But of course, if they dig deeper and try to find the meanings behind my seemingly grotesque suggestions, I'll be twice as happier! Anyways, since everything is tinged with my own references, cultural background and experiences, that makes the lyrics very personal and quite opaque for everyone else. So most of the time, I expect that each person will make his or her own interpretation of my words and I'm glad with that verdict as it is a good exercise of the mind for everybody anyways. In that way, the lyrics are very open since they can suggest so many different themes and images that everybody will have its own story out of them. There's already enough people writing square and straight their ideas and I don't feel compelled to do it so…here it goes.

The new album is being released without any label support if I am not mistaken. Was this a deliberate choice? If so, why did you want to do it this way? What was the biggest advantage of doing it this way? And what was the most difficult aspect?
First of all, that way we're the sole owners of our music. It gets kind of frustrating when you don't own your own music and you have to buy your own cds for example. We also wanted to know about and participate in every aspects of our creation's release. Everything is clearer and faster as you don't have to rely on tierce persons. You only have yourself to blame or congratulate for the choices you make. We set ourselves our own deadlines and plan things ahead more easily according to our schedules. It's better financially for us too, as the money is flowing more or less directly from our fans to us instead of passing by multiple hands, leaving us only the crumbs. Why stay content with the crumbs when you can have the whole pita? Without the filling I agree, but it's already better isn't it? Helps a lot to pay back all the debts we accumulated from those years of touring. People often think that because your band is known and successful, you obviously make money out of it…but it's unfortunately not the reality for bands in North America. We REALLY do this because we love it.

Will you be releasing future material in the same way? Do you think this is the way to go for all artists in the future?
There's a strong possibility that we'll do it the same way next time since it's going very well so far! Of course we would improve on some details with the experience we acquired, but we're so glad we chose this way! At the end of the day, we have to consider what is best for the band, so if an offer comes that is extremely beneficial for us, we shall of course consider it. But seeing how things are going so far, I personally think the once necessary need of a label to release an album is starting to come to an end. With fewer intermediaries, bands are definitely able to beneficiate more directly from the pecuniary aspect. Of course, it's not magical; you need the contacts and it IS a lot of hard work, but I guess that if some people in a band have the skills to do it, it's definitely worth the shot. There are more and more tools for the independent artists on the internet and researches for contacts are easier than before so it's worth to check out this option. All in all, It's not for everyone as it takes away precious time you would use to actually play and compose music, but once the scheme and plan has been thought of, it's only going to be easier the next time around.

It becomes clear from 'FotSE's booklet that Exod (keyboards/samples) is no longer part of the band anymore. Why did he leave? Have you found a replacement yet?
Like I mentioned earlier, Exod left the band but it wasn't a precipitated act. We knew he was eventually leaving something like a year and a half before. At that time we were touring a lot more and it took its toll. He also wanted to spend more time on his own personal musical project called “I Fury” which is in another range altogether. It has the spirit of unexpecT in it, but it takes the form of an orchestral psytrance electro project. I would not dare to define it because just like our music, it's quite unique and I just heard a few songs. But I'm sure a lot of open minded fans of ours will dig it totally! ;) Don't know when he's going to release an album but 2012 sounds good. As far as a replacement goes, we're not actively searching for one because some members in the band (like me and Leïlindel) are also pianists. We may take care of the keyboard composition ourselves…that said, it doesn't exclude future collaborations with Exod, but we'll see when we get to the next composition process. And for live shows, we actually grew to like the fact of being only six instead of seven on a stage. We already cover a lot of space so having a bit more makes it a bit less dangerous for us as we get very intense on stage ! ;)

After the release of 'In A Flesh Aquarium', unexpecT had the opportunity of touring alongside Dream Theater on the Progressive Nation tour. What was that like?
When Mike Portnoy openly incensed IAFA, we were far from knowing that he'd later on invite us on the Progressive Nation Tour with them and Opeth ! Of course, it was an offer a band can't refuse and we jumped at the opportunity! We're extremely grateful to them for having us and giving us that kind of major exposure all over Europe. The feeling you get playing for between 5000 – 10 000 each night is tremendous and still send shivers down my spine just remembering it (ah… 'Bohemian Rhapsody') . That was pure energy, and we were glad that the Dream Theater crowds were very open minded and welcomed us warmly and respectfully everywhere! Add to that friendly bands and a technical team so intent on making us comfortable and you have what I would date to call a dream tour (no pun intended…).

What is your best memory from that tour?
They're all good memories, but if you want one, there was that time at the Wembley Arena in London, when Mike Portnoy invited Landryx to participate in what he called the “percussive nation”. He did an improvisation duet with him live in the middle of the DT show, and then had a foursome with all drummers on the tour (and by foursome I'm talking about playing music live… just so you know… don't want to spread twisted rumors…).

Are there any similar touring plans in the making for the new album?
We already kicked off an Eastern Canadian Tour last weekend which will take us to all corners of this part of Canada. Some European dates are also in talk, but nothing confirmed or official yet. We'd like to tour everywhere of course, but we'll have to see how it goes. People are often asking why we're not coming in their country or city, but it's unfortunately not as easy as it looks. Tours are usually organized by booking agents and most of the times they're the ones picking the bands that'll do them, and all the expenses that go with just one tour are so significant that you can't accept every tour that pass by!

Ok, these were my questions for now, thank you very much for your time and hopefully see you soon on tour in Europe again! If you have anything to add, please go ahead.
We'll probably see you sooner than you think! Thanks for the support and long live Lords of Metal!

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