Phenix interview (09/2004)
- First, the traditional question : could you introduce Phénix to our readers ?
Of course! PHENIX was born in France in the year 2000, created by the passion of five guys in love with Heavy Metal, which is quite unusual in our country, I must admit… From those five friends, four remained and a new one joined to complete the current line-up: Eric on drums, Tony on bass guitar, Olivier and Sébastien on guitars, and myself, Bertrand, on vocals. We first began to play covers for we were so impatient to play on stage but we also started writing our own songs. As time went by, we added our songs to the sets and finally decided to record a first album, Sacred Fire, in 2001. It was released in 2002 on BRENNUS MUSIC label and presented our debut effort, and also a part of our life in the band with the original drummer. When Eric joined us, we started to write some new songs and in 2003, we had enough stuff to record a new CD. We thought it was time to get a better sound so we built our own studio for recording but decided to have the mixing made by a professional studio. Wings of Fire is the result of one year of hard work in our free time (for of course we all have another job and music is just a passion) and we hope it will allow us to reach a larger audience. But recording albums is not what we prefer to do, even if we are really pleased by having our names on a CD. No, in my opinion, our passion for Heavy Metal can really be felt live. Playing on stage and meeting people is what we really like…
- Which bands influenced you the most? I personally think of Maiden with a track like "Trial By Fire" as much as Deep Purple, and even Black Sabbath on "Still Of The Night". Am I right?
Yes. I think we have many influences and as we all have different ones, you can feel a mix of them all! As you may notice, it depends also on who has written the song. Sébastien can't deny he's a huge fan of IRON MAIDEN. And even if his writing as evolved, you can feel he likes this band a lot when you listen to his tunes… I would say Olivier is more into ''original'' things such as Steve VAI or DREAM THEATER so maybe he would write some songs more ''progressive'' just as ''The Fith Dimension'' for example. One of my favorite bands is MANOWAR and you will feel it in the song I wrote, for sure! But there some great bands that we all love, such as DEEP PURPLE or BLACK SABBATH for they surely have brought more than any other bands to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal! About ''Still of the Night'', as the song is a cover of WHITESNAKE, you may feel a link with DEEP PURPLE for David COVERDALE did sing for PURPLE, and also wrote some songs (remember ''Burn''!!!). This song is taken from the fabulous 1987 album and appeared to us as an incredible mix between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal: a kind of synthesis as one may say! That's why we wanted to record it: to pay tribute to a major band in our Metal world! And also, remember that we've always liked to play covers and we still play some in each gig! This is our way to show our devotion to our masters, the ones who gave us the desire and the will to play Metal.
- Tell us a bit about your new album The Mourning Sign… What are the topics of your lyrics?
Well, as this is not a concept album, the songs are about many different things. As we always wanted to stay in an entertainment point of view, we avoided to speak about politics or this kind of stuff. But there is one exception: ''Rebellion'' is about medias, this power that replaced religion in our ''western free world'' (even if religion is far more important in the USA than in Europe where its power has nearly disappeared). Switch on you TV and see: real-TV, false news, disinformation, commercials… Everything to enslave people, keep them in fear to manipulate them but without forgetting to sell something by the way! Unfortunately, if you don't keep in mind that everything on the screen may not be true, you are lost. Except this song, the other ones speak about themes beloved in Heavy Metal, or things we've already spoken about too. Track by track, ''Babylon'' sounded to me very ''oriental'' and the city of Babylon appeared to be as a symbol of the Middle-East, so this song was written about this mythological town. ''Firewings'' is a pure Heavy Metal ''cliché'' song, which does not sound bad to me. On contrary, I've always thought that jeans, leather, chains, spikes and patches are part of our culture, that there is no shame to find the words ''fire'', ''power'', ''Metal'', ''Hell'', ''thunder'', ''might'' and so on in a Heavy Metal song. Understand me: this is not compelled, but if so, this is not a problem either. ''Firewings'' is a tribute-to-Metal song! And ''Trial by Fire'' also!!! Using words taken from names of bands we like, or from songs they wrote. Just try to find them all! ''The Fifth Dimension'' was inspired by the universe of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu myth. ''Still Believe'' is simply about love. ''Time to Live'' as you can notice by reading the title speaks about enjoying life, a theme also used for ''Face my Fate'' on the first album. ''The Last Ride'' is about riding too fast. We all understand that speed demon can possess you; sometimes it also possesses us, but never forget that a demon is evil and that things may come to a bad end… ''Guardians of Metal'' was written for two people that dedicated their lives to Metal. We wanted to pay tribute to them so I wrote this song in a traditional Heavy Metal style which they like so much. And finally, ''The Quest Goes Ever On''… is the continuation of ''The Endless Quest'', the first song PHENIX ever wrote. The Eternal Wanderer is back, still on his quest for an answer. But after a long search (almost two songs!), he finally begins to realize that his quest could not be everlasting! Love and Death seem to be clues to solve is existential problem. Will he succeed? If one day we write a sequel to this song, maybe you'll learn if he managed to find rest and peace…
- How was the recording? Any anecdote?
We decided to record it in our own studio. So we used the place where we rehearse to turn it into a recording room and also bought some equipment to capture the best sound possible. This was quite long for we used only our free time and also give some gigs during the recording sessions, being compelled to stop the recording for rehearsal. It was difficult to record the drums and this is maybe the weaker part of our work. I mean Eric is a great drummer and he would have worth a killer sound. For the next album, we'll record the drums in a professional studio for sure! After bass and guitar were in the box, we worked on the vocals. This part also was a bit long because of the harmonies and so on. And of course, some songs were longer to record, just because of their length. When you add all the time used to record the CD, this is not so much, no more than any other band I think. But as we used only our free time, the recording sessions spread on many months. The mixing was also a busy part of the work. Olivier and I spent a lot of time at the BlueBird studio to try to take the best out of our recordings. But it was a valuable experience and we've learnt a lot, many things we will use for the third album. A funny thing about the recording? Maybe the choir recording session when all the guys sang on ''The Pilgrimage''. As most of them are not speaking English, or with a quite stressed French accent, it was a great fun to have them sing those two phrases for the intro of ''Babylon''! I must admit we had a great laughing time!
Wings On Fire, the new album of the band
- I really liked the cd [and so did I review it ] and I truly believe we'll soon refer to Phénix in France as we refer to bands like Manigance nowadays. According to you, what do you need, to go one step higher?
Many things. We are still learning, everyday, every time we play live, every time we rehearse, and we try to improve each time… I think that we'll have first to try to carry on writing good songs: catchy ones for live and to seduce quickly a new audience, but also more well crafted songs, songs in which you can discover something new each time you listen to it. I also think that if we record another CD, we'll have to reach another step in the production, but without sacrificing our soul. I mean, some producers have a very specific sound and all the bands they work with come to sound a bit the same. This may be OK for some bands playing a certain style of Metal; this is not what we want for PHENIX. We will always prefer to work with an unknown guy that would capture our sound, our feeling, more than with the best renowned Metal producer if that means sounding like dozens of other bands! All this done, we'll have to find a better distribution abroad for unfortunately, I don't believe France is the best country to be popular when you play Heavy Metal. This is a pity, but this is true. I know French Metalheads: they are totally dedicated to the cause, and maybe more fervent than some Metalheads in other countries, but they are few in number, and I'm not sure their number is increasing… BRENNUS MUSIC do its best for us in France, also searching deals abroad for us. Wings of Fire was released just a few weeks ago: it's difficult to say how the CD will be distributed in the rest of the world at that time. But if distribution is important, I think it's also essential for us to play outside of France. We've already had the chance to play in Switzerland and Belgium, and we'll surely play in Germany next year, and this is one of our goals to find some gigs in foreign countries. The last thing we need is patience. By keeping on working hard, I hope someday we'll achieve something great for the band, considering we are not professionals I mean…
- Do you think you can go abroad, and what should be done for a French band to get well exported in the world in your opinion ?
It's difficult to say… The language does not seem to be an obstacle, at least in Japan or Germany. Of course, the production may be part of the equation, but just like in France, you need above all to find a record company which believes in you and which is ready to trust you, to invest on you, to promote you. You may record the best album in the world ever, if nobody knows about it, you won't sell a single copy! Of course, it's possible to find a deal with a foreign record company: some of our band friends got one or are about to get one. But one must see the conditions of such contracts! No way to compare that with the kind of deal we signed with BRENNUS MUSIC. It's a choice, I admit that, but one must be able to assume that also. I don't think we could, considering our personal and professional lives… And anyway, we don't have any proposition for a deal of that kind at that moment, so the question is not ! ;-) I think for the moment, we'll trust BRENNUS MUSIC and hope the label will find some good distribution deals all other the world.
- What are your feelings towards metal in France ? Not discourage by all the bad things which are currently happening? [venues not sold out, French bands always considered as second hand bands, and cds, always too expensive, etc etc etc...]
Never loose the faith or you're dead! France is not a Metal country, probably never will… It never really was either, even in the 80's. We knew it that when you created the band, and we accept it. It's our duty, to us, to all the French Metal bands, to make this change. About the few people attending to gigs, I would say it's our job to make them want to come. About the place of French bands in the international hierarchy, I would say once more that it's up to us. I think the level is better than ever and surely some bands already have a name in other countries. This is not a simple thing to get famous, but I believe some bands do what they have to do to reach this goal! I wish them the best and I'm among their supporters! The problem of the CD price is not the same. This problem does not only concern Metal, but every kind of music. And this partly depends on the government. Unfortunately…
- What do you feel about the end of such a great label as NTS ? Do you think that there's really nothing more to do in France? However we still have more and more ultra crappy bands!!!
That is true that NTS was a big independent label in France, even if nothing compared to a major company. On a personal point of view, I say it's a pity, for a large part of my CD collection comes from NTS bands. On a band point of view, this does not change anything because PHENIX was not the kind of band NTS would have signed. Well, when I think of it, this is not totally exact. In fact, this may be seen as a sign of time: the disappearance of a label like NTS is a bad thing because this was like a guide for us all, and in a manner every French band was taking benefit of the strong image of NTS. But you can't say that there is no more to do in France. First because NTS was localized in France, OK, but above all worked with foreign bands. MANIGANCE, HEADLINE, MALEDICTION, FAIRYLAND and ADAGIO (considering ADAGIO of the project of a French guitar player…), this is quite few for such a label, don't you think? And because there are other labels in France, for example BRENNUS MUSIC or THUNDERING RECORDS. Finally because NTS will rise from its ashes in the new REPLICA RECORDS label, which I'm sure you must have heard about. But I agree with you when you say that we have fucking good bands in France. As I previously said, the French scene is surely better than ever, better than in the 80's. So keep the faith: this will surely pay, and Metal shall rise again!
- Let's go back to Phénix, and gigs : do you have any tour planned ? Some dates?
No tour, no. This is something very hard though impossible to achieve for a small band like us. Maybe someday but we still have to grow before it happens, I'm afraid. But we'll play live anyway, in festivals or with some friends also. We were at the BRENNUS 10th Anniversary Fest on the 18th of September and will play in our home region on the 25th of September, in the Metal Extrem Day on the 9th of October in Belfort and at the KILLERS 20th Anniversary in the South West of France on the 12 et 13th of November. We'll surely play in Germany in February next year and some more dates will be added in the next weeks. Check our website (www.phenixmetal.fr.st) for all the details!
- Metalstorm.ee is a webzine which isn't very much visited by French people, alas [they probably that "English" language...] but by a lot of readers from all around the world. Could you tell them about the Heavy Metal made in France, by giving them names of some French bands, [apart from Phénix, of course ha ha ] that are necessary to know?
You surely don't want me to speak about bands that split years ago, hu? OK, so let's speak about the next generation but not also, for glorious bands as KILLERS or NIGHTMARE are still alive. Except them which are on an international level since a long time, I would mention REVENGE which must be heard, and above all must be seen on stage! FALKIRK and their powerful Heavy Metal, KRAGENS that play a killer Metal really impressive. Of course, MANIGANCE is really worth listening, and many bands have achieved a great level which makes them worthy of the international scene: DYSLESIA, MALEDICTION, SEYMINHOL, KARELIA, and I surely forgot some! Please forgive me!!! But as you can see, lots of bands in France deserve to be heard. Concerning the ''French touch'', I think some bands are still the keepers of it, as KILLERS of course, and MALEDICTION also, but as in every country, some of us play Melodic Speed Metal (DYSLESIA, KARELIA) or Hard Rock (REVENGE) or Heavy Metal (KRAGENS, FALKIRK, SEYMINHOL) but with their own style. Some sing in French (MANIGANCE, MALEDICTION) and some not. Well, we have a large range of Metal styles, without mentioning Extreme Metal, a style where you can also find great names of the international scene. I really mean it when I claim that the French scene has never been so good! We have girls and great lovers, we have wine and cheese, but we also have Metal bands that kick ass!!! ;-)))
- What are the band's future plans ?
First: playing live to promote the album. I think it will take at least one year to play everywhere it's possible, so we are not in a hurry to write new songs. But in another hand, we like that, so I think we will slowly work on new songs. And when we will feel we have enough material and the need to record them, we'll think of it. But the fact is we feel no pressure to hurry in a new recording at the moment. So we prefer to wait for the right time and play live as much as possible for the moment! But of course, we hope to record a third album one day, and maybe others, as long as the band will live. Someone even spoke about a concept album! What an exciting and dangerous idea, isn't it? So wait and see…
- Ok, here we are, we reached the end, thanks for having answered to all these questions, and good luck for the future. If you want to leave a message, go on, treat yourself...
The message is quite simple: a big thank you to all the people who contribute to make our music style live and particularly MetalStorm, but also the bands, the associations that organize gigs, the independent labels, and first and above all, the ones who come to the gigs and buy the CDs. To all of you, Metalheads, we say: you are our reason to be. Stay Heavy, stay Metal, take care and stay alive! METAL RULES!
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