Interview made by Ild, Answers by Neige
I know you’re involved in other important bands of the French scene, can you explain what has been the starting inspiration and idea that moved the decision to start Alcest?
Alcest was my first black metal band. I created this project alone in 1999 and then i met Famine of Peste Noire with whom I recorded the first demo "Tristesse Hivernale". Not long after, Alcest became something much more personnal conceptually and musically, so then it became a solo project. At first, I created this project to do melancholic, cold and traditional Black Metal but the "new" Alcest is something completly different; a bridge between two worlds. Since my childhood, I've had the impression of being in contact with a luminous far off country, I have named it trivially "Fairy Land" but it is just a name. My goal with Alcest is to transpose in musique my memories of this Fairy Land, my visions, what I have felt because all of this is far too uncomprehensive and difficult to explain: I have a hard time to talk about it. These memories influence greatly my way of thinking and hold an important position in my existence.
Texts are written in French…the imaginary is quite original for a band that have strong links with Black Metal, can you present the concept behind?
Yes there are certain links between Alcest and Black Metal but Alcest is NOT Black Metal. I love this style of music and that is why I want to underline this. I don't know what is Alcest in terms of musical genre but certainly not dark music. The concept of Alcest is both extremely complex and extremely simple: to express through music things that are confused and abstract: purity, the absolute, the divine, memories of another world in which time, words and human perception did not exist but were replaced by other things that I cannot define (there are no words that can correspond). The beauty of the Fairy Land is beyond all terrestrial and real beauty; there is over there colours, forms and sounds that do not exist here. I can therefore never talk about it correctly as people would absolutely not understand me and think of me as crazy. Music is therefore ideal to transpose all of this.
The artwork really impressed me, are those places you use to live?
Yes, I often go to these places situated close to where I live, they have a strange atmosphere that helps me to come into contact with the "celestial kingdom". I have greatly worked on the artwork, I wanted thes images to strongly underline the music and help the listener to better understand this univers as these places resemble it enough.. but much less beautiful and troubling of course...
Your music is strongly related to a sophisticated aesthetic, how do you relate to the monotonous and too frequently repetitive Black Metal scene?
The Alcest aesthetic is in fact very precise and thought out. When considering the MCD artwork, nothing has been done without a purpose. As for the black metal albums that I prefer, they are the Norwegian "classics" such as Darkthrone, Burzum, the first Satyricons, Ancient's "Det Glemte Riket"... The new bands that copied their music and their aesthetics don't really interest me really. There are still a few recent albums that I really liked such as Shining's "the eerie cold", Blut aus Nord's "The work which transforms God".
Black Metal usually try to express ancient feelings with modern sounds, how you consider this matter?
For me, Black Metal is beyond time, even though created recently, it seems to me that this music has always existed... at least in man's imaginary, in their fears and their fantasies. When I listen to a cd such as Burzum's "Aske", I don't imagine a guy recording their guitars with a helmet over their ears and a sound engineer next to him. A Black Metal album is a voyage to another world; neither present, nor futur, nor past but something else... just like "Le secret". The only difference with Alcest is that the world that the Black Metal artists have created is a very dark one, oppressing and monstruous. Each one is free to imagine and live Blak Metal as he wishes but personnaly I listen to Black Metal often when I'm on a walk or strolling about in a car in particular places; at that time does this music have on me the effect of a drug, I leave... the shrieks are no longer human, there are no longer musiciens behind, marqueting, terrestrial things and it is because of this that Black Metal is exceptional. I don't think also that Black Metal concerts are a good thing. Generally, seeing corps painted musicians and covered with spikes playing guitar and singing in a microphone and then guys full of beer that headbang in front of the scene has nothing mysterious. I like to watch a good Black Metal concert with a very cold and strange atmosphere but for the moment I have never seen any.
Sadness and melancholy are usually connected to Black metal and Gothic Dark music respectively, your music seem to be more oriented to the artistic expression of those feeling with less boundaries, do you agree?
There is no sadness in my music, there is only an extremely strong nostalgia. It is not the same thing at all. In terms of feelings, Alcest will always be a mixture of joy, extasy, thoughtlessness and purity but also regrets and nostalgia.
Vocals have a minor role and in the first songs they are mainly concentrated to picture a sinister mood… what was your idea?
A sinister mood???.... That really bothers me that you should say that because that proves that I did not succeed in communicating what I had inside me... I just wanted to create a maternal chant, hypnotic and unreal, similar as to what i have heard in the fairy land; certainly not a "dark" chant. My melodies are strange but not stressfull, at least I hope not! The lousy production and strangled chant can maybe explain things. If you could have understood my texts, I don't think you would have said that because they are not texts on sadness or anxiety, I keep that for Mortifera. I plan to re record "Le secret" soon and include two tracks in one album, I hope that this time there will be no compromise as you are not the first person to feel my music as dark music.
Aesthetic of a sombre feelings, I consider your album a pearl, is there any musical influence that have contributed in the creation of "Le Secret"?
Again the somber feelings... NO! ehehe... ok that's fine because in any case I offer a music and a world but each one can perceive and interpret as they wish. My principal influence is that of real celestial music that I might have heard as a child, in my conscience dreams. Besides that I don't think I have been influenced by anything else or maybe by Yann Tiersen (the soundtrack composer of "Le fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain") , I find exactly the same feelings that are in my music, the mixture of joy, purity and nostalgia; it's one of my favorite artists, his album "Rue des cascades" is great.
Do you feel in any way influenced by the French culture by an artistic point of view?
I really appreciate my culture, and the beauty of my country, that must have influenced a part of my work in an unconscious manner but Alcest is a project beyond culture, beyond France, and beyond the world.
You’re also part of Mortifera, what are the main differences from your perspective?
The titles that I have composed for Mortifera "Le Revenant", "Ciel Brouillé" are just spits. A concentration of hate and sadness. It's my way of aestheticizing and exteriorizing my disgust for the actual world and the negative part that is in me, the approach , the textes and the music are then naturally completely different.