In 2012 you decided to take a break from Les Discrets and focus on other arts and your work as maker of animation films. How did you slowly evolve towards making music again? It seems that ‘Le Reproche’ happened to be the first song you wrote of this cycle, isn’t it?
As I told you when we were in the van on tour, I decided to do a side project and make some new music in a different direction. So this song, ‘Le Reproche’ was basically one of the first ones in that style. Actually the very first one was ‘Vanishing Beauties’, the first one that introduced the drum machine and the synthetic bass line. Actually, the one that really set me free is ‘Le Reproche’, because everything on it was different and new: the way to compose the song, to arrange the music, remove guitars over in the background to make vocals more clear. I really learned a lot when I was doing that. With this song I really learned how to compose in a better way.
Much of the music is inspired by going by train from Lyon to Paris every day. A moment when you are alone with your thoughts. Can you tell a bit more about that?
Basically what I mean about this is: all these years I have been busy, with my mind and physically. I am doing a lot of stuff: working, projects, music, drawing… I did not really take the time to think about my life and where I was going as a person. After the school I started to work and kept working, working, working… without any moment of asking myself: is this the good direction you are going to in life? Those moments in train confronted me with myself. I took the train so much that at some point in time, I really accepted to wait and to do nothing in the train. It was early in the morning. So you cannot work because you are still a bit tired. You can just listen to music or maybe try to sleep a little bit. During those train travels I started to think about my life, the meaning of life, the meaning of behaving as a human and what will be my goal as a human being in this life. Basically that’s it. The travels in train allowed me to take the time I needed and I never really took, to have a breakdown and consider some points. Those points were: I really need to make more time for my friends and family and myself and not working so much as I did in the past, to connect and to live the moment in the now. Not always look for something in the future. There is life at this moment and I have to enjoy it, you know. Other points were the relation to the nature and the animals, because when I was travelling, the train rides through the landscapes and you have a lot of industrial scenes and stuff like this. All these travels in train really helped me to think about this concept about our relation as humans, to animals especially, and that led to the album.
That is probably why the album is called ‘Predators’…
Exactly. That led to the title: human beings can be seen as predators. And by being predators to nature, we are also predators to ourselves, because we are part of the nature. Nature is not something else, we are really part of it. Destroying it, like destroying trees and animals and air and oceans, is destroying us directly.
Running into a lighter subject: there is also a song inspired by James Bond. Did it have something to do with mentioned influences of the soundtrack music from the seventies?
(laughs) Yes, of course. I really like James Bond movies. It is always funny, I surely like the old ones. I grew up with those and the composer of the music, for instance for ‘The Persuaders’, John Barry, is a composer I really love. Since a long time I wanted to incorporate this in my music. In the music of the seventies, there is a kind of feeling, some harmonies that are really typical to this era. I really like this sound and harmonies and this is what I was trying to project in my music. A kind of Ennio Morricone feel as well, this cowboy sounds… That song, ‘The Scent Of Spring (Moonraker)’, is a kind of tribute to it. The picture I used for this song, is a picture of an astronaut, leaving earth. He is in his space shuttle and he is the last human on earth, because earth is polluted and nobody can live on it anymore. He is just taking the last space shuttle to another planet where everybody lives. A kind of fantasy, you know… He looks at the earth through the window of the shuttle and the more he takes distance and the earth grows smaller, he remembers how beautiful earth was back in the days when he was a child. It was green, there was sun, it was beautiful. He is very sad, because now he cannot remember the smell of Spring, the flowers and the trees… That is why I have chosen the title. It has this seventies tones of John Barry and it has this singing and story about, basically, forgetting who we are.
We should also mention your new live band since the resurrection, now not so new anymore, since you played with them at Prophecy Fest and during the January tour. Can we see it as a kind of independence towards what you did earlier, playing gigs with Alcest members?
Of course, it is exactly that I have to admit. Winterhalter (former drummer – Vera) and me did not play together, or even get along musically, for a long time, because the music has changed too much and he is not into that kind of stuff. For myself, I didn’t want to work with Winterhalter anymore, because I think he was giving a metal feel to the music that I really did not want at all anymore. We stopped and I found a new drummer Jean Jolie, a very talented one. He also plays on the record, besides me and Audrey. The other musicians are live musicians. I wanted a totally new band, because I wanted independency. I took distance from Alcest and from the past musicians and that’s fine, because I can learn new music.
You recorded with Audrey in your own studio. I think that is another step in the direction of being independent…
Going to an extern studio is fine if the songs are ready and you are well prepared. Then you just play the songs on excellent gear and the record is done. Myself, I needed a studio to have some freedom, trying things out, being able to create without time pressure. This is really expensive if you go to a professional studio. Sometimes it is okay to be constrained to a few days to come up with results, but for this album I wanted to be free and spent time as much as the album needed. That’s why I built this studio. So it is partly due to independency, but it will depend on the project. It is still very odd to do this, because you are alone. There is nobody to help you. And sound engineers and producers, that is their work, they are doing it better than me. So I will do it again here, but I will go back to a real studio as well.
But I think at some point in time you worked together with a producer from the Indie scène isn’t it?
Yes, it is a producer who is really not into metal or stuff like that and that was precisely what I needed. He is someone who just listens to the music and does the best he thinks he can do. This was very interesting, because I learned a lot of new techniques, a new approach about the mixing step. So that was really cool. On this album I really wanted that you can understand the lyrics when I sing. Vocals have to be in front of the mix and that was rule number one of this album. The way he produced and mixed the vocals is really interesting, because it is new. It is a way to produce the vocals like for the radio and I really wanted this kind of mix. Very compressed, very loud in the mix… I am so happy with the work he did.
Obviously with this album it will be possible to appeal to another audience than metal fans…
Yes, I think so. This is what I am trying to do a little bit. My roots in metal are still present in the music, but we and Prophecy Productions are trying to gain new fans in other scenes as well, broaden the musical horizon towards things like the Indie scène. I am very proud of that.
Empyrium is doing an occasional gig soon in Oberhausen and Les Discrets is supporting them… and that will be special…
Yes, we will be doing an intimate gig, acoustic. That’s cool, because I always wanted to do an acoustic show and acoustic music and now we can see how it works. And I think the songs of Les Discrets work pretty well in acoustic versions. So it will be a busy and stressful day, because after that I will be on stage with Empyrium as well.
You also have plans for a book with all your artwork or is that still far away in future?
No, it is the more time passes by, the more I want to become an artist. My job is to make animated films, but the more I go to work, the more I want to stop this for a while and maybe just live with my art and music. I am slowly trying to do this, getting back on the cover art for people and bands, selling my drawings, doing exhibitions and this kind of stuff. I have an exhibition at Roadburn for example.
And you are going to Brazil in September!
Yes, we are playing at a very cool festival with Sólstafir, Enslaved and John Haughm of Agalloch. People are really happy about that.
What can you tell about the music video for ‘Virée Nocturne’?
Well, it is made as music for the credits of a movie. The title and credits are of a non-existing, imaginary movie, because the music on the record is very cinematic. I really would enjoy that my music would be used in a movie or in a documentary. I would like to make a movie for one of the songs as well, but until now I did not have time for that. Maybe later.
To occlude we should also mention that, for the visual art, you worked together with someone else for the first time, the Englishman Chris Friel. Who is that?
He is a photographer I found when I was doing a side project and I was looking for pictures of animals. I found his work and I got in contact with him. Then we spoke and he said that he would be happy if I use his pictures. There is a kind of impressionist feel in his pictures. It looks a bit like William Turner, the painter. But he does it in photography. There’s a lot of emotion in it. Basically his pictures are not about the subject that he fixes with the camera, it is about the feeling that the photography conveys. This is why I think he is an impressionist. It is exact the same feeling you have when you look at his pictures, than what you have, for me, when you look at William Turner’s paintings.