Published on Wednesday, 08 March 2017 19:48
Interview with: Stefan Bayle and Wilheim
Conducted by: T.V.
French newcomers to the scene Au Champ Des Morts really took everybody by surprise. The band which was formed in 2014 out of the ashes of legendary black metal band Anorexia Nervosa by Stefan Bayle, together with Migreich, known from black metal act Vulv, later on joined by bassist/vocalist Cécile G., also ex member of Anorexia Nervosa and cold wave band Olen'k, and drummer Wilheim who was playing in bands such as Neurasthenie, Ases, Execution and Beauty Of Desolation, recently released their stunning debut album named Dans La Joie (read a review over HERE), which was also selected as Album Of The Month January 2017 right here on Terra Relicta. The band recorded its first demo in October 2015 which brought them attention of many labels and the best offer came right from French Debemur Morti Productions. Au Champ Des Morts already with their first EP Le Jour Se Lève, which was released in May 2016 by Debemur Morti Productions, showed how much of potential they have with their versatile sound which blends elements of blackgaze, post-rock, cold wave, dsbm, post-black metal and yet much more into one mesmerizing flowing and very coherent sound. Now the band functions as a trio since founding member Migreich left the band. They are in no way just another typical post-black metal thing, this band offers a lot and we can only hope that we will be granted with many more releases like it's Dans La Joie in the future. I talked with bands guitarist/vocalist Stefan Bayle and drummer Wilheim about many things regarding their debut full-lenght, about inspirations and influences, about future plans, personal things and yet much more. Read this interesting interview, and most of all, if you haven't done it yet, please give a listen to this magnificient band, you won't regret it.
T.V.: Before starting this interview I must congratulate you for making such a great album like is Dans La Joie. Tell me how do you feel about it now, a couple of weeks after its official release? Has everything turned out just as you've expected?
Stefan: Thank you very much ! It goes straight to our hearts! Yes, feedbacks about the album are for now good and far beyond our expectations.
Wilheim: We just wanted to share a spontaneous, visceral music, we hadn't made any plan about it, and we are really proud that so many people express that this piece touched them in so many ways.
Stefan: And we are also satisfied to see that underground music is still there, and in a good shape.
T.V.: That's because it's really a deep, expressive album, yet full of passion. Because I don't understand French, can you explain me a bit about the album title, meaning of lyrics, is there some kind of a concept behind it?
Stefan: The title Dans La Joie can be translated by "In Joy". We care a lot about symbolic, it's important for us. We chose Dans La Joie for its many senses. First, for its contrast with the mood of the album, but also for its biblical meaning, talking about the unveiling of the true meaning of God’s speech. There are many ways to perceive this title; we let the listener make his own idea. In the beginning, we did not attempt to pull out some kind of concept through the songs we wrote. We just wanted to regain the feelings of old school metal, when stereotypes didn't exist, and when people wrote music in a spiritual way. We let the music transcend us and the lyrics came out in that same spirit: lyrics have always been written on a theme or something inspired by the music, or a personal experience that has affected us. But at the end of the composition, when all songs have been assembled to finalize the album, we noticed that there was a link between them. We like to resume this by "we are the witnesses of death under all its forms". Indeed, a whole concept about Death has emerged, moving from physical death, to reach spiritual and symbolic death, and in the end, “La Fin du Monde”.
T.V.: Interesting! And I think that the use of French lyrics really adds a lot to the whole ambiance of the album, but still, I wonder what was the reason that you decided to use French language?
Stefan: It's the same as for music. We didn't really think about it, it came naturally. It's like using old Marshall amps, this is part of how we approach this project. French language is our language, we're really attached to it, but it's not easy to sing in French. It's not really appropriate to this kind of vocals, so you have to be very careful about the words you can use in order to obtain something which makes sense. It is curious to note that between the written and the oral there are great variations in the deep sense of things. I think we use French because we wanted to deliver something which really comes from us, to reach this primal state. We're also very attached to our soil, and Au Champ Des Morts is anchored in our land, so, singing in French seems to be obvious.
T.V.: The same question goes for the band name. I find it pretty original btw...
Wilheim: This name, which can be translated as "To the Field of Dead Ones", refers to a special place in Auvergne (center of France, where some of us were born and raised) called the "Champ des Morts" where clay tablets covered with cuneiform scriptures have been discovered, making it a cradle of human language and writing: this is a reference to both our attachment to our lands, and our interest in forgotten knowledge of humanity. This name can also refer to battlefields of the ancient times. There are so many layers to dig under that name.
T.V.: Au Champ Des Morts was formed by you Stefan and Migreich in 2014. Because I couldn't find any information I wonder why did Migreich left the band and was replaced by Cécile G. Is the recent line-up a stable one?
Stefan: Migreich and I are guitar players. After we started the project, defined the basic rules and written a few songs, we've decided to make Au Champ Des Morts a real band, and we took Cecile G. as bass player and Wilheim as drummer. Both are very close friends, we wanted Au Champ Des Morts to be a kind of family project where everyone is invested at one hundred per cent and share the same spirit. Migreich left the band for personal reason while we were recording the album, so now we're a trio, and yes, the line-up is very stable, we're really bonded by what we've done.
T.V.: The album was released through the great French label Debemur Morti Productions. How did you came in contact with them and how are the things working out so far?
Stefan: Debemur Morti is French like us! But it's not the main reason of our collaboration.
Wilheim: After recording what would become our first EP Le Jour Se Lève, we sent a few copies to our network, and received positive answers. From all the answers we had, Debemur Morti was the perfect match. We meet great people with the same vision and this made the difference.
Stefan: Quickly we have developed a relationship of mutual trust and respect, it's really a dream to work with them. We share the same idea about music and the only thing important for us is Art, keeping it alive. We are very proud and grateful to be a part of this label.
T.V.: That's really good to hear! I find it pretty interesting how many musical elements you guys use in your songs. It's hard to find anywhere else such a coherent sound which is based on black metal, but it inherits also post-rock, cold wave, metalgaze and yet much more. I know that your influences are varied, so I won't be asking you about band names, but can you tell me which musicians/artists inspired you the most in your creativity?
Stefan: Thank you! When we started the band, we chose to play only with classic Marshall amps and old pedals, to keep this old school feeling alive and at the same time we wanted to make something fresh. I think maybe that's the reason why we don't sound so common. We are not looking for the best or the biggest sound, rather the true one, the one that serves the soul of the songs. For the inspirations, yes, they're varied, but the musicians who inspired us are varied too. To quote only one, maybe I 'll say that Tom Gabriel Fischer is one of the rare who manages to keep a complete integrity on a so long career, except some wanderings in the 90s, and makes albums that count. I'm inspired by albums that are not just music, but part of a ritual, which makes me move forward, in a transcendental way.
Wilheim: By making this band, we wanted to give something coming from the bottom of our hearts, to be as sincere as possible. So, in a way, artists that have influenced us are those in which we felt this sincerity and sensitivity. We can cite bands like Bathory, Burzum or Celtic Frost in the black metal scene that, according to our vision, delivered unique and personal arts, deeply rooted in themselves with albums like Hammerheart, Filosofem and Monotheist. Those efforts are very distinctive for us. The Devil's Blood, in another way of making dark music, also reached this goal with a record like The Thousandfold Epicentre.
T.V.: Yet Dans La Joie is an album full of dualities, not only from musical side, as well from lyrical side. Tell me, is this some kind of your own vision of life, of the world and society, which then manifests in your music and texts?
Stefan: Yes, I think this is the case. This album is a truly reflection of ourselves, even if it's a little bit cliché to say that, so I think we look like that inside. We're not interested in the modern world. I think it's a whole nonsense. But we live in it, so we try to evolve in a spiritual way, and we're posing as spectators of this period.
Wilheim: Indeed, we speak with our hearts. Observing the decay of modern western society is quite the basis of what made our music come to life.
T.V.: You must be also fans of gothic rock, as you made the fantastic cover of "Driven Like The Snow" of The Sisters Of Mercy. Tell me, why did you choose this very song and why it's released only as a bonus on some special editions of the album?
Stefan: Yes, I 'm a big fan of The Sisters Of Mercy! I chose this song, first, because I love it, but also because I wanted to transform a typical gothic song adding a strong dark feeling, a black metal song in the style of Bathory, and this one inspired me for that exercise. It was a way for me to mix a lot of my influences into one song, and to demonstrate that these two universes are very close. It's the same kind of duality you can find on the album, but pushed to its boundaries. It's released as a bonus, because we like doing things like in the good old days, with special editions and bonuses. And also it's not a part of Dans La Joie, it doesn't have its place on the album, so a bonus on the vinyl edition was a better place.
Wilheim: The Sisters Of Mercy, or bands like Bauhaus, Fields Of The Nephilim, but also The Cure, are fully part of our cultural background. We wanted to pay tribute by covering one of those bands. I think we decided to make it appear on the vinyl edition also because we are vinyl addicts, so for us it was logical that this edition deserves an extra.
T.V.: How it's the compositional process of songs going on. Who's responsible for music, who writes the lyrics...?
Stefan: Generally, I compose the music. Often, a song comes from an idea of a melody, or a riff skeleton, then, it starts to become an obsession, and I let everything coming out from me. I like this phase because I don't really control things; it's a kind of a transcendental ritual where I can tear parts of ether to turn them into material. Regarding the lyrics, we all participate. We're very connected, so it's easy to write things that touch everyone.
T.V.: The artwork of the album is also amazing. How did you come in contact with artist Dehn Sora, and can you tell me if this artwork has any deeper meaning and how it's connected with the whole album concept?
Wilheim: Dehn Sora was introduced to us by our label Debemur Morti, while finalizing our EP. What he created for Le Jour Se Lève EP really matched with our work. So when we started thinking about a visual art for Dans La Joie, it was obvious to work with him again. He really manages to catch the essence of our music and lyrics to give it body through his illustration, his mastery in black and white gives echo to our visual identity.
Stefan: His work is fantastic and like every great artist, it has an infinity of interpretations, a unity in symbolic. In the end what he proposed to us matched perfectly to what we had in mind for this album. Of course, it’s connected to the album, all the elements are there. The light and shadow, the field, the death, the journey, the sacred and unity. But, I can’t explain everything, it’s about initiation and ritual; you have to find your own way of apprehending all this, you have to feel it. That’s the essence of this art, for everyone one, resulting in being more grown up, to reach the light.
T.V.: You Stefan also mixed the album and I think you did a perfect job, why did you decided to do this by yourself anyway? How much experiences do you have in this fields? Were you done this job also for any other bands before?
Stefan: Thank you! I did the mix, because, for practical reasons, it was easier for us to do it at home than at the Drudenhaus Studio. But we also wanted to do this album "in family", that's why we have recorded at the Drudenhaus which is led by Benoit Roux, the ex-Anorexia Nervosa keyboard player, and one of my closest friends. It's very important for us that Au Champ Des Morts stays in our territory and with friends. It's a part of our souls that there is in it and we don't want to make compromises. To make the purest music we can, we need to do it that way. I have some experience in this field. I participated to all of Anorexia Nervosa albums, and occasionally, I mix material for friends when they ask, or to help to record an album. But I'm much more interested in the spirit of the music and the way to render it up, than in technical stuff and computers. That's why I don't want this to be my job. I prefer to focus myself on spiritual or sacred than technique, and I don't want to move away from that.
T.V.: You are right, even if not seen on the first sight, it is very complex and detailed. Two out of three of you were previously playing in the legendary Anorexia Nervosa. What was the reason to start a new band and is Anorexia Nervosa now dead and buried?
Stefan: We stopped Anorexia Nervosa because we were at the end of this project, I'm very proud of what we've accomplished, but to continue had no sense. I didn't want this project to become the shadow of itself. So, from my point of view, Anorexia Nervosa belongs to the past, it had to stop when it did. The reason we start this new band is the same as for Anorexia Nervosa. A need to create something, to extract music from the ether and bring it to this world. But, I take advantage of my past experiences; a decade separates those two bands, and our evolution allows us to approach things in a new spirit. What I've learned from Anorexia Nervosa, is to not make compromise. Au Champ Des Morts will be a true artistic project.
T.V.: I see, but beside Au Champ Des Morts are you guys involved right now in any other band or project?
Wilheim: As for myself, the only other project I'm involved in is a Motörhead cover band. It's a way to have fun, but not really a serious project.
Stefan: Yes, apart from that, we only have Au Champ Des Morts. It's really a full time project, we can't find neither time or energy to do something else. And because we can put everything we love and all that we feel into Au Champ Des Morts, why would we want to play other music in the same time? Like I said before, the important thing is to make albums that count. To deliver the purest art we can. It's a question of faith. So, when we will not be able to do that, we will do other things, but for the moment that's our only goal.
T.V.: I couldn't find any information who's the female vocalist on the track "La Fin Du Monde". Can you tell me a bit more about this collaboration?
Stefan: Everything is written on the Credits of the album. All the female vocals are performed by Cecile G., our bass player. Her voice is very special, very deep, expressive and cold. She sang for Anorexia Nervosa in the past, and did some vocals on the last Glaciation album. She was also singing in Olen'k, a great cold wave band in the early 2000's. She appears several times on vocals on the album, it's a way to highlight some passages, or to give different emotions, like our duo on the clean singing of "Nos Décombres". For "La Fin du Monde", she had the perfect voice for this song, so, for us it was obvious and everything happened naturally. We wanted this song to be a kind of homage to Dead Can Dance.
T.V.: Oh cool. This information didn't came with the promo sheet of the album, so I didn't know that. Can we expect to see and hear Au Champ Des Morts playing on stage someday soon?
Stefan: I hope so! For the moment, we're evolving as a trio, and we're looking for a second guitarist. We wish to construct something worthy of the album for what will be Au Champ Des Morts live. But we really want to play on stage, so I hope it won't take so long to be ready.
T.V.: When it will happen I think that it should be a real blast to hear those songs played live and I hope to see you on stage someday! Now tell me... I find it pretty interesting how many original bands come out from France, maybe more than from any other country, of course you, than Alcest, Wormfood, Nocturnal Depression, plus many many others inside metal scene and also in other genres, come in mind. Where in your opinion is the secret? Something special in the air?
Stefan: Maybe a reason of the French bands' quality today is that there's no metal tradition here unlike Sweden or Norway. There's not a lot of people involved, and not a lot of gigs. Perhaps we're not so influenced by every mainstream band and people have no stereotypes in minds when they start something, so, they can create something original or honest. And, the fact that you can't live, or it's very difficult, on your music is also important, it frees you from the pressure and temptations, you can really explore what's inside you.
Wilheim: I don't think that it is only linked with France, because we can quote other non-French bands with which we think we share the same approach, like Woods Of Desolation, Psychonaut 4, The Devil's Blood,... The link is in the way of elaborating the art, and a certain state of mind that drive those bands to compose this way. It deals with sincerity and a will to come back to a more emotional way to make music, without thinking about business or selling.
T.V.: Besides of course waiting to see you playing live, what can we expect from Au Champ Des Morts in the near future? I know it's too early to ask, but when can we expect next release?
Stefan: We can only write music when we have something to say, and I can't command this. So we don't want to put a deadline for a second album, or it won't be as honest as the first one. Maybe it will take one year or ten, only god knows... For the live, now that we are a trio, we think that one guitar is not enough to render up the album on stage, so, like I said before, we're looking for another guitarist, but it's not an easy thing!
Wilheim: We already started to work on new songs, but it's really too early to speak about another record. We're gonna take the necessary time to elaborate it.
T.V.: And we will eagerly wait for that to happen. Now tell me to what kind of music are you guys listening right now? Which was the last album that you bought?
Stefan: The latest album I bought is Earth I by Earth & Pillars, but right now, I'm listening to Ultha, Throane and Tempers albums, very different bands but very intense ones.
Wilheim: Last record I bought was the remastered version of Pornography from The Cure. As for today, I alternate between recent stuff like latest Psychonaut 4 record, Neurasthenia, and older stuff like Burzum's Filosofem or De Mysteriis dom Sathanas from Mayhem. I think, after all that time, those two records really made a difference, and are still full of subtleties to discover.
T.V.: Besides being involved into music, what are other things that interests you in private life?
Stefan: At the moment, music almost takes all of my time, but I also read a lot, mostly metaphysical works. Otherwise, I'm audiophile and I like old American cars.
Wilheim: Mainly reading, including historical work, or metaphysical essays. I also alternate with steampunk or fantastic novels.
T.V.: Thank you very much for your time and for interesting answers. The last words are all yours.
Stefan: Thank you! Let yourself be invaded with Joy and Light.
Au Champ Des Morts links: Facebook