Lalu interview (03/2005)

With: Vivien Lalu [Keyboards]
Conducted by: Jeff
Published: 14.03.2005

- Hi Vivien!!! Lalu is your own band, we all know that, but who is Mr Vivien Lalu, can you present him to the Metalstorm's readers?

Hi Jeff! We'll I'm a 26 years old keyboard freak hailing from Paris' suburbs / France. I'm addicted to compose heavy music and enslave a lot of "known" musicians to help realize my dreams. In some kind of way, I am a "wannabe Arjen Lucassen" even if Arjen has probably got more talent and means than I will ever have.

- Lalu, in addition to be your name is also a band of course, and you have the luck to play with some famous musicians. Can you present them briefly? How did you meet them?

I feel obliged to mention it, LALU is not really a band, I would qualify it more of a "band-project". I stopped working in a band format because I was willing to concentrate on what "I" want to do musically, and some experiences from the past didn't convince me about sharing ideas with other people. I lost a lot of my time and I want to start it all over again, alone. Since I couldn't make a decent "metal release" by my own, I asked many guys worldwide and it ended up like that: Joop Wolters on guitars - I first met him on internet. I visited the site of his band "Arabesque" and immediately felt in love with his guitars. I emailed him and we got friends quickly. I met Ryan Van Poederooyen after seeing a 'Devin Townsend Band' show in Paris. I emailed him and soon after, sent him my music and he liked it at a point that he committed to record my debut. What a fool he was! (laughs). I got in touch with Martin LeMar thanks to the drummer of his ex-band because I reminded his great voice on their demo stuff. It immediately worked between the two of us, a "magical link" should I say, we are really good buddies now (as with Joop) and we also phone every week if possible. Ryan got me in touch later on with Russell Bergquist that was in Annihilator at the time. I didn't know him, but I was impressed by his musical career and crushing bass playing so rest is history…

- "Oniric Metal", your first album, will be released at the end of the month. How is it going for you right now, don't you have a lot of pressure?

Yes I do! You never know what people will think of you and your music. I simply hope they will leave me be for one time, I have no pretensions you know, I am only trying to write my name somewhere on a wall of this huge town that music is. I hope they will respect me as much as I respect other bands, even the ones I dislike. I hate it when some people see music as the Olympic games so I am waiting for the day when people will stop comparing bands and respect each one for the efforts and energy they put in their stuff.

- Let's talk about your album now, "Oniric Metal, can you present it? What are the topics of the lyrics, do you have any messages in them?

Topics are various, mostly fantasy or gothic horror stuff, anticipation, escapism. There are no messages at all. I want to free my mind when I make music, I always have this need for escapism and the last thing I'd do would be to make an album about reality. Do you follow me? Anyway, Martin wrote the lyrics and even if I discussed stuff with him, I didn't really care. I only concentrated on the music and even the track-tittles are secondary to me. Martin changed a lot of them to fit his lyrics and there was no problem by my side… Really I like to work this way.

- "Oniric Metal"…. Hum what's the meaning of this title and why (is it a new Metal style??? ) )

"Oniric" because I am a dreamer and when I am playing keyboards I want to feel like I'm dreaming, I love New Age music and movie soundtracks, I am addicted to the harmonies of old masters such as Claude Debussy or contemporary composers like Vangelis and Eric Serra. "Metal" because on the other side I've always been a metal head and I like to head bang all the time. So it's a melange of dreamy atmospheres melted together with some powerful metal music, mostly "progressive" I admit (even if not technical compared to bands such as Dream Theater & likes). I don't have the pretension to come up with something new, bands like Symphony X and especially Devin Townsend did it before me, amongst many others.

- How did you get this deal with Lion Music, a Finnish label? Why not a French one? Are the French labels absolutely uninterested by Prog Metal?

I think the situation of the progressive scene in France is quite catastrophic. I won't give any names, but the same labels that did the most in that style here couldn't get any band in the front of the scene, after so many years. I contacted Lion Music because Joop told me they did a good job with his albums, he really got paid off and it is really true that the guy behind this label - Lasse Mattsson - is a great dude and it's good to work with cool Finnish freaks like him. If I really "succeed" one day that would be a good idea to create a prog' label in France and try to change things and offer killer distribution, promotion. If InsideOut did it in Germany, why would that be impossible here, hmmm?

- How can you qualify the music of Lalu? Is it only Progressive Metal or maybe something more… like your own and personal music maybe?

I think that the music I write is a mix of various influences. There was a great painter called Picasso that said: "It's because I was such awkward at copying others that I finally got my own style". I agree with the theory. Look at Dream Theater for instance, I can recognize a lot of their influences into their stuff. Rush, Yes… but when I listen to Yes, I also can recognize the Beatles. But at the end, getting back to it it's just Dream Theater to me.
I have the belief that every musician grow up with various influences and this affects the music writing in some kind of way. But I also believe that "what you will do" will become something that is YOUR, because you cannot totally reproduce the things you like in the bands you admire the most. And that little imperfection (or "difference") is the real thing to explore in order to finally find your style. Today I feel like I'm on something, but still didn't complete myself stylishly. What to answer then? (smile)

- Vivien, I know that your parents were in a Progressive rock band at the end of the 70's. It must be something absolutely marvellous for them to have a son who releases his own album 20 years later. I'm curious to know their "opinion" about your music, about your career, in the world of Music.

You're right. It's fantastic for them, but also for me. They're very supportive. I always feel like I am presenting my homeworks to them (laughs), when I have done a song or something I often bring it to my parents and I'm always anxious about their feedback. I have a lot of respect for them (as musicians and human beings) and it's wonderful when I see that a song of a part of a song can make my mother or father cry. Their opinion is always high. It gives me a good reason to do this crap you know. Also, when I am travelling I can bring my parents over and it's like they are living their early band ages again. Best memory was recently, when we were in the hotel with Devin Townsend and Devin was in socks on the bed (with his band) and my dad speaking and smoking together with him. Two of "my heroes" talking together. The kind of memories I will keep in my mind forever. I am happy that I can do this stuff because then I can live such great moments and my parents can be there to live this dream too, together with me.

- You play the piano and keyboards, but strangely, only some few young Metalheads choose to play these instruments. How did you choose to play these instruments instead of guitar or drum? Can you give some tips to all the guys and gals who want to play "Metal" with their keyboards?

I don't really play piano. I try the best I can with Synthesisers. Guitars totally bored me to death, and I'm a nightmare for every drummer that lend me his drum kit (laughs). I believe synths were the only instrument that I could use to express my musical ideas, since there are samples of each instrument and you can write a song alone. However, to answer your second question I would advise people to simply try with the guitar or something else, because a synthesiser cannot be heavy (only for the roadies - laughs). No really, when you choose keys in the metal scene you have to know that a lot of people will dislike you and you will never be "in front", but it don't mean that you cannot "do it". You have to accept it and find a way to express yourself musically, in a way that people can consider you more seriously - just as I'm trying to do with 'Oniric Metal'.

- You worked also for Hubi Meisel, Joop Wolters for example… How was the work with them? What is the feeling to be only a musical compositor for one other guy. What is the feeling when you write the music of an album and when your name is not on the cover?

Well for Joop that was only a (difficult) keyboard session work for a friend that I know personally and on the musical side as well. For Hubi Meisel, that was different. A compositional work with keyboard parts as well, for someone I didn't really know in "real life". I guess the way you take it depends of your aims… When I am working for someone, my personal aim is to make that person happy. Not the other way around. So no matter when I have to compose a part 10 times again, or if I have to admit another idea I wouldn't like for myself, the most important is that the person you're working for is happy, otherwise I would just have refused that kind of projects and did this stuff alone. About the name on the cover, I don't care as far as it's mentioned in the booklet. I mean, I ask nothing, just to be credited for the actual things I did. Nothing more, nothing less. [/b]

- I know that you have one other important project, Shadrane. Can you give us some information about it?

Oh, I was young, stupid, mere fanatic of Ayreon, and I thought that I could produce an Ayreon-like multi-features record alone and without experience! That was a real mistake, trust me. Today my 'Shadrane' concept album is still in the works and it's a pain in the ass sometimes, because I wrote the material 3 years ago and evolved at a point that I feel bored by this stuff sometimes. I need fresh air, I am currently "revamping" everything and it's doing great so far. Just slow. I expect this as a release that would feed the gap between my debut album and a second LALU album expected for spring 2006. But still, I secured parts from amazing musicians like Simon Phillips (Toto), Steve Walsh (Kansas) and I must admit that I'm proud of it! Man, they were heroes of my parents as well.

- What are your main influences? Musical, literary or even cinema why not… ?

Musically… Video games music. Every RPG scores from the likes of Final Fantasy, Seiken Densetsu, Baldur's Gates 'n' stuff… I dig Nobuo Uematsu, Hiroki Kikuta, Motoi Sakuraba, Yuzo Koshiro, Jeremy Soule's symphonic compositions. Metal side, bands like Megadeth, Strapping Young Lad, Symphony X… Literary every dark fantasy books from Michael Moorcock, and Cinema a lot of old movies from the 70's / 80's, mostly sci-fi / fantasy. I make it short because that would be too long to mention and if I write a name and not another, that would be unfair. BUT still my favourite movie is THE NINTH GATE with one of my favourite actors ever: Johnny Depp. The soundtrack also give me a kind of chills…

- Two excellent artists worked on the artwork of the album, Mattias Noren for the logo, and Carl-André Beckston for the cover and booklet. Can you present us these two guys? Why did you choose to work with them?

Does Mattias Norén really need an introduction? Almost everybody knows him nowadays, he worked for the greatest of progressive bands and came up with killer covers / booklets. I knew Mattias since the time I started to work on Shadrane and the first thing that I did was to search for original artwork to illustrate my concept. Mattias did a lot of visuals for Shadrane and it was all natural for me to ask him a logo when I started LALU out. Around the time I almost finished the CD, Joop and Lion Music introduced me to another artist, Carl-André Beckston, and I felt in love right away with his impressive visuals and very strong "old painter" style. His colours and contrasts blow me away every time that I look into his works. I can feel warm, cold, dizzy… I already know that I want to work with him for the next one! He impressed me once again with some recent work he did for upcoming releases you're going to hear of… Trust me.

- Will we have the luck to see Lalu in live one day? Any news on this point?

It will depend of the booker Martin found us in Germany, they said they were interested and they also manage the booking of Tomorrow's Eve. We could open for tons of great bands then. Hmmm, nothing clear so far, anyway. A good thing though is that Russell is definitely moving to Europe soon, near from Joop and myself, there would only miss Ryan then - still located in Canada. And as I said, it's a band-project, not really the kind of typical touring band if you know what I mean.

- Oki dude, thank a lot for this interview, I'm glad to be your first interviewer hehe . Be sure that Metalstorm will follow your road, and also we will be always here to support Lalu no problem. If you have any last word…

Thanks, really! Oh well, 2nd interview now, just before yours I got an interview for an English mag' called Virtuosa and I am very glad about your unbelievable support too. Thank you so much! For the interest, the support (once again) and everything. My last word would be…

Stay metal folks, but stay open minded!!! Please.

Big thanks to my mate Vivien for this interview. Too bad I'm not your first interviewer... well let's hope that I will see you live soon


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