The Old Dead Tree interview (11/2007)
|With:||Manuel Munoz [guitars, vocals] & Gilles Moinet [guitars]|
|Conducted by:||wrathchild (in person)|
The Old Dead Tree
In Paris (Kata Bar), 15/09/2007
(Originally done in French)
First I would like to thank you for this interview, because I've got the impression that the band is rather quiet with the media. Is it a choice or a lack of opportunities, or...
Manuel Munoz: I don't know, I don't think so...
You should appear in tabloids! [laughs]
Manuel: Oh no, that's not planned, normally.
So, there's a new album, "The Water Fields." Perhaps it's nothing but I noticed your first album was released in 2003, the second in 2005, and now the third one in 2007, so an album every two years is a formula you're pleased with?
Manuel: We try to stick to this formula but it's very hard. It's not easy, it's a lot of work and we weren't lucky since there was a change in the line-up between "The Nameless Disease" and "The Perpetual Motion", and another change between "The Perpetual Motion" and "The Water Field." So that's not very easy to deal with because that means a break in the composition and touring processes and touring is very important to us. It's true we try to keep this rhythm, which - as a fan - I personally like because longer than that is too long and shorter would mean rushing to get the album done. So yes we try to stick to two years but that's hard.
Do you think the album would have been different if you had more time?
Manuel: I think so, I think perhaps the whole atmosphere would have been different. This album was composed... Well, during the composition process a lot of things happened to the band: the departure of Nicolas Chevrollier, guitarist and founder of the band, and co-composer too. So we needed to find a new guitarist, Gilles, and thus we had to build new human and musical relationships. We both had children, and for the second time, and finally we had a new management team. Everything happened within roughly 6 or 7 months.
It's very hard, I mean, the pressure was high, with the deadline, the studio, etc. and you have to do it all. Since we didn't want to make a bad album but also wanted to take care of our families, we didn't sleep a lot and the pressure was high, it was a bit chaotic with something new happening and making us questioned what we did all the time. It was a painful album to make. We worked a lot on it because we wanted it this way... but it was good.
And we can feel it. I think it's the darkest album we recorded, it's more metal, more compact.
Speaking of that, here's a quote from you on the band's (old) website:
"This album is much heavier and darker, but also more diverse and full of sheer emotion!"
So it's the result of that pressure?
Manuel: First, emotion is the one characteristic of the band since the start. The music of the band is based on that, a lot of our melodies play with that. Emotion is very important for the band. Now there are many ways of doing an album, we could have done a very soft and sad album yet still very emotional. But this time there was a lot of pressure to let out, so we started with the Gibson guitar, the Laboga amp and made them roar. Yes, for a musician, music is way to let the stress out, things that aren't right, and we really put our darkest sides, the sad and angry moments, everything that didn't go well, in this album. It comes from that.
And regarding the composition process, I gather from the credits of the previous albums that you [Manuel] and Nicolas [Chevrollier] were the main composers. How did it go for the new album?
Manuel: We started composing the album before Gilles' arrival, with Nicolas. I composed 80% of the first album and we divided the work on the second album between me and Nicolas, 50/50, well, not that we composed half of the songs on our own but we worked every track together, every idea was proposed to the other, resulting in a mix of our influences and that is "The Perpetual Motion."
We did the same for the new album, first with Nicolas, and then Gilles arrived in the band. I came up with some of my own songs during the adaptation period and then Gilles and I composed songs together and eventually succeeded in including Gilles' ideas and influences into the music of The Old Dead Tree. We wanted to keep the same main thread with those new influences.
And in my opinion, the result totally fits The Old Dead Tree.
Gilles Moinet: And also Nicolas kept participating on some songs. I could give my opinions and suggested arrangements on the tracks that Manuel and Nicolas had already composed, and he did the same with the songs Manuel and I composed together.
Manuel: Nicolas kept coming to the rehearsals, first to contribute to the arrangements on the songs he had co-composed. And so he gave us an external point of view on what we had done. And Gilles did the same with what Nicolas and I had done. I think it contributed to improve the
How did you choose Gilles? Did you already know each other, or...
Manuel: No, not at all.
Not at all, so was your choice based on similar musical backgrounds?
Manuel: Ah, lots of auditions first. We were lucky, well also unlucky. Lucky since we had a very wide array of candidates to choose from but we had to do all those auditions, that took a very long time and we wanted to see everybody. First we did musical auditions, then we talked to those people, then we auditioned them again. We wanted someone who wasn't just trying to seize an opportunity, someone who really loved the band and Gilles has all our albums since the first demo so that was a real plus.
And we also wanted someone whose human qualities were compatible with the band, sharing the same spirit. Because we're not a "rock 'n' roll" band you know, we're not used to drink barrels of beer after concerts, we don't do drugs or stuff like that, and we all have a family life and know it's hard. So choosing someone who hadn't experienced that and possibly would one or two years after could have said "I can't do it."
Gilles was already in a stable situation, we precisely detailed what he would face and it seemed to us that he was mature enough to understand what that implied and we were not wrong. Plus we had some common musical influences and became friends since there were two auditions and two meetings with Gilles. Something happened and to me it's like Gilles has always been part of the band. We're all very similar, we share the same way to look at life, etc. I'm really happy that he's in the band.
When he arrived, he boosted everyone up, especially since Nicolas was tired, tired of handling tours, and when his wife became pregnant he knew he wouldn't have the energy to manage both the band and his family.
From left to right: Vincent Danhier, Manuel Munoz, Gilles Moinet, Foued Moukid
About the album, there are several songs which are quite punchy, like the opener "Start The Fire."
Manuel: Yeah the title is right!
Is it the result from all that pressure? Do you think you'll keep following this more aggressive path on future albums?
Manuel: Right now I must say that this album was sort of painful to do, so now that it's done, it's done. Concerts are coming and we're looking forward to touring.
Gilles: The next album is for 2009, 2010. 2009 that's it.
Manuel: Yeah, 2009, in September! [laughs - see question 2] We really don't know and I think we should avoid thinking about it.
It's a bit stupid but Vincent, our bass player, was somewhat doubtful as we composed the songs of the album. He wanted it to be a rock album. So, all along the composition process, he insisted that I should compose a really violent, extreme song, like "The Knock Out Song" or "My Friends" from "The Perpetual Motion."
Gilles: And "Start The Fire" was already composed at that time.
Manuel: Yeah, "Start The Fire" was already done but to him it wasn't that aggressive. I tried to please him so I took my guitar several times, alone, for two or three hours and I finally realised that you can't force things. So I think there will be no way to control what the next album will sound like. Perhaps we will be calm, happy, or exhausted after touring extensively for "The Water Fields."
Gilles: It could even be an acoustic album.
Manuel: Exactly. We should avoid questioning ourselves or there will always be something to change, etc. You can't command Art.
I gather from what you say that no song was left over.
Manuel: None. If one of us isn't satisfied with something we composed, we either drop it or work it again until everyone is pleased. We really want everyone to agree, so we're satisfied with the album for longer.
I was asked what would I change on "The Perpetual Motion" and I wouldn't change many things,
even two years later. We worked it in details, we did our best and I'm extremely proud of it.
For the artwork, you choose Eliran Kantor. I loved what he did with Detonation, To-Mera, etc. How did you contact him and what ideas did you give him, if any?
Manuel: I contacted lots of designers, sending them the title and the concept of the album. And they all focused on "water fields", except one guy who focused on the concept. And this guy was Eliran Kantor. He did something about what the water fields really are to me, as can be found in the lyrics and this artwork was the first he sent to us, we hardly made any changes to the original. Among the numerous suggestions we received - and we received a lot, even coming from well-known names from the metal scene - that's the one we had a crush on. Gilles and I loved it at first sight as it is has something of the 70s, prog, etc. That's an artwork you would want to have as a vinyl LP, to see it big with all the details. I think Eliran is a very talented artist who will be very successful within the metal scene and even outside metal music because he's so committed to his work, it's great to see people like him.
"The Water Fields" cover artwork by Eliran Kantor
You've just talked about the concept. Can you explain it in more details?
Manuel: "The Water Fields" is an album dealing with avoidance. I observed my relatives, my family and friends and I tried to see, to understand people's reactions to a problem. And generally we all tend to avoid it, to flee from it. Our first reaction to a problem, a pain, is to get away from the danger. I'll take stupid example: when you get burnt by a candle for instance, you will first get your hand away from it and not blow the candle out. We never seek to first stop the cause of the problem but we stay clear of the problem instead.
The water fields are a sort of imaginary place that we all know and where we find shelter. It can be a passion: some are playing music, others are into car tuning, surf the Internet and chat on MSN, etc. This is avoidance. And that's what the water fields are. Like I say, that reaction can be salutary, but some people keep on avoiding problems all along their life, they get drowned in water fields. This is what the album is about, with different anecdotes, different stories, different characters, different points of view. It's not a great story, with a beginning and an end but all those stories are linked to each other by the idea of avoidance and the way people react to problems.
And when did you think about that concept? Was it before you actually start composing songs with Gilles?
Manuel: No, it came during while composing the album. I know a lot of people read the lyrics of The Old Dead Tree a lot, every interview has a question about them unlike other metal bands but I'd rather like to be left alone about that! [laughs]
Thus it's hard because I know people will read them and that I'll have to defend them afterwards.
At first I didn't know what to talk about, I didn't even want to do a concept album but as I wrote the first song, "The Water Fields", I wanted to develop it more and I realised that this concept could stretch to some of the rough ideas of songs I had for the new album.
So you compose the music before you write the lyrics?
Manuel: Yeah, yes.
Manuel: Everytime. In fact, "The Perpetual Motion" was a bit different, but the music is first composed by the two guitarists, then we do the arrangements with the bassist and the drummer. They do a drum and bass track that is independent of what the guitars do. That's no very frequent in metal, it's a more bluesy and rock structure, the drums and the bass trying to be more groovy, with the bass doing something different than the guitars. And once we worked on everything, every cymbal hit, every guitar note, every bass note, that we checked everything was coherent it's time for me to work on the vocal melodies. In fact I begin by humming, searching for a vocal melody, a rhythm, and I try to incorporate my ideas into this rhythm. I still have difficulties creating the lyrics separately, I mean, to paste the lyrics into the music. It's obvious to me when bands do that. You can guess that the singer wants to say 15 syllables but the music leaves him with only height slots to fill so he speeds up and up. [laughs]
That's not good, I don't like that. I want the vocals to sound natural so I need to make sure the meaning of the words fit the music. It's a very long process, the vocal lines also need the approval of the rest of the band.
With the new album comes a new tour, starting in October. So far no dates are scheduled after December, do you have any plans to add other concerts next year?
Manuel: After that we'll have a break! [laughs]
We didn't stop, except for a few days in the summer, now there's a lot of promotion to do and after that the tour. So we'll take a few days off in January and I hope we'll do as much dates in 2008 as during those 2 months in 2007. We have many offers though nothing certain as of now but I'm confident.
On some dates you'll be playing with Deadsoul Tribe. Do you know the band?
Manuel: I know them since I was told we would be touring together, so I had a quick look at their MySpace. It's really good, and I think we have a lot of things in common with this is a band, also from a musical point of view so it will please the audience.
I remember seeing both bands for the first time in Raismes (for the Raismesfest 2005)
Manuel: Oh the Raismesfest right, but I missed them because we were in the middle of an interview. I was told they were great so I really wished I could have seen them. Besides they seem to be very friendly guys, in Raismes we briefly talked with them, not for long unfortunately. I'm looking forward to touring with them.
Will Deadsoul Tribe open for The Old Dead Tree or is it gonna be the opposite?
Manuel: It will depend on the location. In Germany they're probably more famous, they're Austrians if I remember. But maybe we will headline in Belgium, Switzerland, I don't know. We will be co-headlining anyway, so we'll play the same time, in the same conditions, etc.
Now, I imagine this is a frequent question, do you think The Old Dead Tree is getting bigger in the French metal scene compared to, say, two years later?
Manuel: In the French metal scene, no. In the international scene, yes. I mean, in the French metal scene, we got sufficient media coverage to be noticed with "The Perpetual Motion" and "The Nameless Disease." We were in every [metal] magazine, sometimes on a double page and so on, so we got fairly known. Plus living in Paris is a chance, cause the concerts you do here are more easily noticed by the Media. After that in 2003 we toured in France with Paradise Lost, with Katatonia, with Opeth so it helped a lot and now things are growing fast for us abroad. "The Perpetual Motion" allowed us to play in festivals, we also toured with Epica and right now there's Germany, Portugal wants us, we're known in The Netherlands so we're starting to get bigger in Europe.
But French bands are currently successful abroad, like Dagoba who toured with In Flames, Gojira everywhere, in USA, Australia...
A question to Gilles, coming from Lux Incerta who also features a member of Lethian Dreams...
Gilles: Errr, well, he's no longer with the band.
What do you think about the French doom metal scene?
Gilles: In France, well, some bands are getting bigger, like Ataraxie, Inborn Suffering, Rising Dust, The Bottle Doom Lazy Band... good stuff. But all in all, there are a few big doom bands like My Dying Bride and some older bands but I don't think doom is more developed in France, it's the same everywhere. The doom genre is getting more popular these days but still it's not a very popular genre.
Manuel (hard to hear on my recording): It's a very underground genre. It's hard to say whether there is a growing German or Swede underground doom metal scene, because we'll only notice the bigger bands and miss the small ones, like the many small doom bands we have in France.
Gilles: I'd say the the leader doom band in France is Ataraxie, to me they're THE French doom band.
Speaking of Ataraxie, you played with them last year in Limoges, right?
I remember, I was there and had a car accident the day after! [laughs]
I was impressed by their performance. I didn't know them and I enjoyed this solid and "precise" show.
Manuel: And that's not easy to play. Especially for the drummer... [laughs]
Gilles: Yeah it's extremely slow.
Manuel: Crash... Crash... [imitating the sound of cymbals]
A good show. Pity that there was a huge delay, waiting was exhausting and we took the stage at 1am, when we drove all the way from Paris the same day.
We've just talked about doom, now what do you think of the gothic metal genre? Do you think that The Old Dead Tree falls into this category or do you have something against this label?
Manuel: You have to do with whatever label you're given anyway. But the main influences of the band when we founded it were gothic metal bands. At that time we called them gothic doom, Paradise Lost, Anathema, My Dying Bride, and up until Gilles arrived no one in the band had a really "gothic" background, was it new wave or batcave, nothing. We're were witnessing that from a distance, thinking "Wow, they're weird people, they're using make-up, etc."
But we were always classified as a gothic band, that was strange because we never really listened to gothic music. And that's also what Gilles is bringing to the band. [To Gilles] I'll let you continue on this matter.
Gilles: You were talking about the Gothic genre in general?
I was referring to the fact The Old Dead Tree is often labeled a gothic metal band, that's the case on Metal Storm for instance.
Gilles: Gothic metal, yeah, we're often referenced as a gothic metal band but it's true that gothic metal is Paradise Lost, etc. I listen to gothic metal a lot but also pure gothic music, like The Sisters Of Mercy, some stuff from the 70s to the 80s, a bit of new wave and so on, and the link with gothic metal bands such as Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, well, it doesn't really exist.
Manuel: No, there isn't any.
Gilles: But there's the dark imagery and the lyrical references.
Manuel: You were talking about labels and we had a lot, like melodic death, errr... what else, something related to hardcore... Well a bit of everything you see so we just do with whatever label we're given. There's one I liked a lot recently, and so far it's the only one I thought "Yeah, that's nice", and it was "versatile dark metal." I like it, cause it's dark, ok, and it changes a lot. I think it came from a German webzine.
Gilles: It's clear to me that I would classify The Old Dead Tree in the dark metal category because, it means a lot and nothing at the same time. It's vast, so you can put all genres that are somewhat "dark" in there, from Behemoth to...
Some people call a band like Evergrey "dark metal," would it fit what you say?
Gilles: Yeah, absolutely.
Though it's very different from The Old Dead Tree.
Earlier you told me you changed managements. What was the reason to that, or is it just part of an evolution...
Manuel: Yeah, evolution on one side, plus we got tired on a private level... That was not evident, but...
And so, about the new management?
Manuel: It's going very well, as you can see [laughs - Florian, the guy I have to thank for this interview, is a very friendly and funny guy!]
A word to conclude this interview?
Gilles: Thanks a lot for the support, we hope that those who know us will enjoy the album...
Manuel: And also those who do not know us yet!
Gilles: Yes of course! [laughs] They can also see us on tour.
Thanks a lot to Manuel, Gilles and Florian for the interview!
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