Kalisia interview (05/2009)
|With:||Laurent Pouget (keyboards), Brett Caldas-Lima (guitars, vocals)|
|Conducted by:||Darkside Momo (e-mail)|
The French geniuses Kalisia finally released this year their first album Cybion, an epic masterpiece of a prog album. This, 14 years after their first demo, named Skies was released.
So, of course, I wanted to know more, as many questions needed answers...
Darkside Momo: Classical introduction… What's the history of the band?
Laurent Pouget (keyboards): Kalisia was formed back in '94. We immediately played a very melodic kind of Death Metal, with lots of progressive influences. After a little year of existence, we recorded our first (and only) demo-tape: "Skies". The 500 copies quickly sold out, so in November '95 the French label Adipocere released 1500 CDs of it - that also sold out pretty fast. We became a sort of "French revelation" as we figured in various metal press referendums as "best French band". But we then decided to disappear some time to compose and record an ambitious album… We never thought that it would take us 13 years to complete… NEVER!
Where does the name come from?
Laurent: We wanted a name that was only OUR name, with no other meaning. It's only later that we realized that some girls had this name and that a city in Poland too… At this time we are trying to make that city change its name, but we got no answer from the Polish authorities yet…
How was received Skies at the time of its release?
Laurent: As I said before, very well! This demo gave us the opportunity to play live with some great bands (Emperor, Samael, My Dying Bride, Therion, Eldritch, Crematory, Bal-Sagoth, Sadist…) and we even appeared in the best French band seIection of various magazines!
Why did it take so much time to release Cybion? It seems the writing was finished a few years ago (the booklet states 'music written between 1996 and 2003')...
Laurent: Well, once the music was composed we tried to find a label that would allow us to record Cybion in good conditions. But no one was interested, so we had no other choice but to record it ourselves…
Brett Caldas-Lima (guitars, vocals): And it took us an incredible amount of work and sacrifices. We had a lot of problems as if fate was getting in our way, but we finally made it and it's at least something we can be proud of.
And what the hell happened with the labels? Why didn't they sign you up?
Laurent: We got few answers actually. Basically they were: "This is a very good project, but much too special, expensive and difficult to sell"
It is true that our music doesn't perfectly fit a predefined genre of metal. It's progressive for sure, but it covers so many sub-styles that the labels probably feared metal-fans would be disoriented. Obviously, they were wrong, as we have plenty of good returns!
How many labels did you contact?
Brett: I would say something like the 15 biggest (or most serious) ones, probably all the labels you're thinking about at the moment: Inside Out, Roadrunner, Century Media, Nuclear Blast, Listenable, Steamhammer, SPV, Relapse, Sensory, Season of Mist, Spinefarm, Metal Blade, Napalm Records, Underclass...
Now, about the album itself… Why is Cybion a concept album? And why a sci-fi story?
Laurent: At the time, Brett and I were fascinated by epic songs and epic stories (I still am!). We also used to read lot of science-fiction. I had many ideas about our planetary macro-organism, and happened to fall on "The Symbiotic Man", a book by scientist Joël de Rosnay, which formalized all these ideas. Such an ambitious subject was impossible to tackle in a standard 10 minute song. Right from the beginning we knew we were going to make a huge and ambitious song over an hour long! We also knew the packaging would be special.
Where did you get the inspiration for the story?
Laurent: The first script was very abstract, and that was a problem for making music and illustrations. So we quickly built up an adventure story, with characters through which the abstract concepts could be illustrated. Inspiration for the story came from many science-fiction novelists, such as Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke or Philip K. Dick.
Quoting your website about the new language, called Kal, you created: "It required, its creator Brett Caldas-Lima acknowledges, "a totally stupid amount of working hours in regard to the few times it is used"." Will you use it again, somewhere else?
Laurent: That's a good question! Who knows? At this time we still don't know what we will do next, so everything's open. But there's one sure thing: as you can hear it in Cybion if you listen closely, we love winks!
How did you write the music? Who did what, and how did you work on it?
Laurent: Loïc, Brett and I wrote the music, and even if one of us sometimes brought several minutes of contiguous music, the others then added their touch, or deeply changed things! Actually, everything is always subject to discussion in Kalisia, that also explains why it took us so long. There's only one song, and no sub-parts were attributed to one or the other. Everyone brought ideas for every part, and did not write only for its own instrument. I think it helps a lot to understand the great cohesiveness of Cybion: we are not musicians making music on our sides on the same album; we are only using our instruments to serve the concept.
At the very beginning, some themes and harmonies were composed, and we then played with them along the concept so they would appear always transformed.
You'll never hear twice the same thing on Cybion! It's fully progressive.
Brett: Well, not exactly twice the same thing, but a lot of melodies, harmonies or rhythms are coming back again here and there, disguised or fully exposed. Such a long song needed "hooks", things you can refer to and quickly remember so you can feel more comfortable on the second listen.
A specific question: at the end of Blinded Addict (track 6), Stephanie speaks with 'robotized' vocals, and I feel this is very reminiscent of the anime Ghost In The Shell. What do you think?
Brett: Well I wouldn't like to disappoint you, but this anime has not been the influence for this part, but that kind of would make sense actually. The thing is (without being too specific) that here Stephanie is saying that she needs to be "robotized" to survive.
What are the reactions to Cybion so far?
Laurent: Awesome!! The reviews are way beyond our expectations. Have a look at our forum, we gather all of them here.
And feedbacks from fans are awesome too. This album was long awaited, and no one was disappointed.
The only problem we had is that promotion costs a lot, so we weren't able to do much (two magazine ads, only in France…). We count on fans to help us out, and on webzines like Metalstorm ;-)
There are quite a few guests on Cybion and the bonus tracks. How did it happen?
Brett: Well, each guest has a different story. For instance, Arjen Lucassen from Ayreon and I have been exchanging emails for years now and that's how I decided to ask him to participate to the project. Or concerning Paul Masvidal from Cynic (ex Death), since I sang a couple of times with them on stage and was their sound engineer for a few tours, that was easier to ask him. But some people like Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy were complete strangers and just answered to a Myspace message I sent them, to my delighted surprise. Oh and there were also some musicians that I have been working with as a producer or mixer since I run my own studio.
Why did you choose these covers? I mean, especially why did you choose to cover a Loudblast song? And why picking A Fortune In Lies and not, say, Metropolis or Pull Me Under?
Brett: There were a few constraints in choosing the songs: they had to be representative of our influences when we formed the band around 1995, and had to be different to show the different aspects of our musical personality (progressive, death, black, experimental). All those covers have some special meanings to me. A Fortune In Lies is the first song from Dream Theater that I heard, and this band changed my life in many ways. Plus, it's a very good tune that was the perfect to be "Kalisia-ed", haha. Why a Loudblast song? Because this was one of the very best death metal band around at the time (and I honestly don't say this because they were French too). The "logical" or "expected" choice would have been to record a Death cover, but since it was already too close to Cynic (especially since I would have chosen a Human song for sure), I decided to go for something a bit more unconventional and original.
As you are Cynic fans, now tell us what's your favourite song on Focus and Traced In Air!
Laurent: Difficult question, as I rarely apprehend an album as separate tracks. On Focus, I like The Eagle Nature a lot. And on Traced In Air I'd say King Of Those Who Know. But I must say this second Cynic album disappointed me a bit. I think these great musicians could have done a lot better. Way too much high-pitched vocoded voices for example...
Brett: I agree that it's a very hard question... It depends of my mood as well. I love everyting on Focus, but I would say Veil of Maya right now. I also love Traced in Air a lot minus the opening and closing tracks. I would go for The Space For This but this is also subject to change, .
And what young metal bands (let's say, less than 10 years old) kicked your ass recently?
Laurent: I don't know if Akin is young enough, but 'verse' (2001) is one of my favorite albums! I really hope they'll make another one…
Brett: I won't speak about the bands that I work with because people would think that I'm not honest, . So let me think... It's very hard to answer because I noticed that not a lot of new bands are really that interesting, most of the ones I love come from at least the 90's. But if look at my iTunes library searching for bands that released their first album in the 2000's (or close to) I would say After Forever (although they sadly just split up), Between the Buried and Me, Chimaira, Evanescence, Frost*, Gojira, Killswitch Engage, Lamb Of God, Linkin Park, Mercenary, Mnemic, Nightwish, Pain, Protest The Hero, Scar Symmetry, Shining, Slipknot, Textures. Must be forgetting a lot of good stuff though...
And now, a few questions for Brett, about his studio. Since when do you run it?
Brett: I started a few years ago now, but since I could only call myself a pro since I got my first pay check, then it was at the end of 2004.
Can you tell us with whom did you work?
Brett: Well I could copy-paste the list from my website (which by the way is www.towerstudio.net) but that wouldn't make much sense would it? ;-) I will just limit myself with the most noticeable ones I guess (although that is very subjective and I hope bands not appearing here won't take it badly, ). So let's say in alphabetical order Akphaezya (Fr), Auspex (Fr), Cynic (USA - live stuff), Forest Stream (Russia), Freak Kitchen (Sweden - live stuff), Hypno5e (Fr), Imperial Vengeance (UK), Kalisia of course, haha, Malmonde (Fr), Ram-Zet (Norway), The Arkitecht (Mexico), To-Mera (UK), Xerath (UK), Whyzdom (Fr) and Theodore Ziras (Greece). I'm sure most them are totally unknown to many of your readers, but believe me there are some serious talents in there.
How did you happen to produce the band The Arkitecht? What did you think of the music?
Brett: Well Genaro contacted me through my Myspace page and this is how we got in touch, he liked my work so asked me to mix and master his album, which I gladly did. I had a great fun working with him (though it was really a lot of work), the music is really very good and very diverse which was really cool.
Brett, can you also tell us how it was to record his French narrative lyrics for Megadeth, on the United Abominations album? How did that happen?
Brett: A very weird experience, I recorded my parts without knowing what the music was behind, I just had Dave's text that I had to translate and that was it. But it's so cool to be on one of your favorite band's album (even though Roadrunner fucked up the credits in the booklet). It happened almost by pure serendipity really, I was just chatting with Andy Sneap (who was producing the album) and he mentioned he needed French narration, that was it.
It seems some of you play in other bands. So, can you tell us something about these?
Laurent: Thibaut (bass) is the only one to play in other bands: Eyeless and Hegemon.
Brett: I appear on a few albums but Kalisia is my only band. Eyeless is a kind of metalcore band where Thibaut is having a lot of fun, but Hegemon is his baby really, pure black metal in the vein of the bands he's been listening to and loving for so many years.
If I'm not mistaken, Brett, you also won a Cynic contest to determine who'd be the growler for the reunion tour? So, why weren't you on stage? What happened?
Brett: Well you are mistaken, hahaha. I won a contest to sing on one song (Uroboric Forms) in one city only (Paris), which I did. I actually happened to sing again on a few other dates as well and on other songs too as we were touring Europe. At the end of these tours, they asked me to join the band as vocalist and guitar player, but I injured my right arm (RSI) and had no other choice but to give up. In the meantime they found Tymon which was the right piece of the puzzle, fitting the band much more than me (much better guitar player and his voice is closer to Tony's than mine).
Brett, you were Cynic's sound engineer during their last tour (with Opeth). Do you still work with them?
Brett: In fact I didn't run sound for them on the Opeth tour. I did join them for the last few gigs of their first European Reunion dates up to the Opeth tour which I couldn't do. We're still in close contact and if they want me to help them on their next European tour I would be very happy to oblige indeed.
And now, what about Kalisia's future? Do you have any shows planned? And what would you play, the whole Cybion album or just seIected parts?
Laurent: We will play Cybion live in 2010 hopefully. But it is unlikely that we will have the opportunity to play it entirely at first, so we'll have to choose 2 parts. We could ask fans, because we don't know which ones yet. Our dream is to play Cybion entirely though, with a big stage and videos…
Is there a part II to The Mental Frames in the works (or will you do it Dream Theater - Metropolis style)? And, are you thinking about a future album?
Laurent: Before making Cybion, we started composing 'The mental Frames - Part II', and we even thought about making a concept album out of it! And this was way before Scenes From A Memory… So yes, there are some ideas written for the part II, but we still have lot of work to finish it.
The future album? Yes, I do think about it… but nothing's composed yet. At this time we are focused on releasing Cybion worldwide, finding a drummer and preparing gigs. Our future will probably depend on Cybion's success…
Anything to add?
Brett: Mmmmmh, well, nothing that I can think of, haha! Thanks a lot for the interview and interest in our band, fans' support is very important to us since we're totally self produced so thanks to whoever is reading this and willing to help us out!
Thanks again to Laurent and Brett for the patience, effort and kindness!
Cybion is available on Kalisia's website
||Posted on 07.05.2009 by Once your regular Hellfest reporter, now retired. I (strangely enough) listen to a lot of metal. And enjoy good beers, comics, novels and role-playing games.|
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