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Vision Eternel - Interview


The Canadian/American act Vision Eternel, a solo project of songwriter Alexander Julien, has released a new cinematic concept work of art this September, the EP named For Farewell Of Nostalgia. This is maybe the most elaborated and most personal work to date in Vision Eternel discography. Alexander formed Vision Eternel back in 2007, as a project where his endeavours in ambient, ethereal, minimal, emo, post-rock, post-metal,... waters can find its home. Alexander describes the music of Vision Eternel as "melogaze". The meaning of this, as well as many other things regarding Vision Eternel, the latest EP For Farewell Of Nostalgia, something about his other musical projects and bands, and yet more that you need to know about this exceptional act, can be read in this in-depth interview where Alexander gave us the most detailed answers as he could.

Interview with: Alexander Julien
Conducted by: Tomaz
Edited by: Jerneja

Tomaz: Even though Vision Eternel has been around since 2007, and has already released a plentiful discography, it remains quite an unknown name for a lot of fans of dark music. Please tell our readers more about Vision Eternel.
Alexander
: I started Vision Eternel in January 2007 as an ambient side project while playing in two black metal bands: Vision Lunar and Throne Of Mortality. I also had two other solo projects; Soufferance, which played dark ambient, and Vision Solitude, which played dark folk. Today, I consider Vision Eternel to be my principal band, but in 2007, it was just one of the many bands that I was part of. Vision Eternel came about somewhat by accident. I was playing the guitar and experimenting with new effects and recording styles at the newly-built Mortified Studio in Edison, New Jersey, United States when I began coming up with these really beautiful, short pieces. I was not trying to copy any style or genre; I was just playing things that sounded honest and heartfelt to me. The first song that I composed was "Love Within Beauty"; then a few days later "Love Within Isolation" and I immediately knew that it was the beginning of something different from my other bands. These songs were very emotional and touched on a personal subject that was dear to my heart; they documented the depression that I was going through because of a failed relationship. In less than a month, I had Vision Eternel's debut concept extended play ready; Seul Dans L'obsession was released on February 14, 2007, for Valentine's Day, and I directed a music video for the single "Love Within Narcosis". Even though Vision Eternel was extremely personal and centred around my own experiences and heartbreak, I started looking for members to turn it into a full band. The first person to join was one of my best friends Philip Altobelli. But he was transitioning from a metal guitarist to a classical guitarist so he ended up leaving the band after only a brief period. I then spent the spring and summer of 2007 composing Vision Eternel's sophomore concept extended play, Un Automne En Solitude. That second release was held back from release because I did not want to have two releases out in the same year. At the end of the summer of 2007, I moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and in early 2008 I tried to build up Vision Eternel into a band once again. Two new guitarists joined: Adam Kennedy on lead electric guitar and Nidal Mourad on acoustic guitar; with that line-up, I switched from lead electric guitar to rhythm electric guitar. The music started sounding more like a mix of indie rock and post-rock, but nothing that could be compared to other bands because none of us listened to those genres. I really liked the direction of the new music but Nidal left, then Adam and Vision Eternel became my own band again. I then released Un Automne En Solitude on March 14, 2008; it was promoted with the single "Season In Absence", which had two different music videos. That second release attracted the attention of the Japanese record label Frozen Veins Records, which released a compilation of the first two extended plays with a poster for the Japanese market. The compilation, An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes, came out on February 14, 2009. That year, I also recorded Vision Eternel's third concept extended play, Abondance De Périls, which was released on March 9, 2010, through my own record label Abridged Pause Recordings. I spent the next two years struggling with Vision Eternel while I played in different bands. I thought that perhaps the days of Vision Eternel had come to an end, so when I worked out the next concept extended play, The Last Great Torch Song, I asked several friends to contribute guest parts. I thought that if this was to be the band's swansong, it would end things well. The Last Great Torch Song was released on March 14, 2012, and featured Garry Brents on keyboards, Alexander Fawcett on guitar and bass, and Eiman Iraninejad and Howard Change providing spoken word vocals. In the summer of 2014, I was approached by an acquaintance to compose the soundtrack to a short film. I composed and submitted a fourteen-minute soundtrack, but quickly found out that the producer/director/screenwriter of the project had instead used the funds to finance his own vacation to Europe. I really loved the new music that I had recorded, and I did not want it to be abandoned, so I went back into the studio to edit, partly re-record and fully re-mix the soundtrack into an extended play. The music sounded very close to Vision Eternel so I decided to release it through that band; Echoes From Forgotten Hearts was released on February 14, 2015. Between 2017 and 2018, I compiled the retrospective boxed set An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes (unrelated to the Japanese compilation of the same title), which compiled Vision Eternel's full discography up to that point. It was made to highlight the tenth anniversary of the band, along with a music video for the song "Pièce No. Trois". As soon as that was released, I began working on Vision Eternel's sixth concept extended play, For Farewell Of Nostalgia, which was finally released, after almost four years of work, on September 14, 2020.


Tomaz: You recently released a new EP For Farewell Of Nostalgia. How are you satisfied with it, and what are the differences, if compared to your previous works?
Alexander: I am very proud of For Farewell Of Nostalgia. From an insider's perspective, I think that it introduces a lot of new elements, which were not present on past Vision Eternel releases; yet it still very much sounds like Vision Eternel. I consider Vision Eternel to be very straight-forward and somewhat accessible; I am not an experimental musician by nature. So hearing the new release will definitely feel and sound familiar to existing Vision Eternel fans. I think that the most obvious difference is with the length of the songs. Previous Vision Eternel songs were usually around one to two minutes in length, with a full extended play lasting between ten to fifteen minutes. The new songs recorded for For Farewell Of Nostalgia range from five to eleven minutes in length and the complete release spans thirty-two minutes. The idea to have longer songs for Vision Eternel started several years ago, in early 2011, and it was an element that I normally reserved for my other band Soufferance. Soufferance had much more complex concepts and sequencing than Vision Eternel, so those longer songs naturally fit well for that band. But since I was the main composer for both of those bands, there was bound to be a bit of cross-over. The first Vision Eternel song to incorporate that style was "Sometimes In Absolute Togetherness", which was released on The Last Great Torch Song. "Pièce No. Sept", from Echoes From Forgotten Hearts, also had some of those elements. But it was during the lengthy composing and arranging stages of For Farewell Of Nostalgia that I finally got to perfect the longer songs, adding repetitive, almost hypnotic, codas and manage to keep the beauty and hopefulness associated with Vision Eternel. Another concept that I carried over from Soufferance is the extended track listing of the extended play. For Farewell Of Nostalgia has four principal songs, but they are all sub-divided into parts or segues. That was a device somewhat popular with progressive rock albums in the 1970s, or with classical recordings on compact discs, but it is seldom used nowadays. I also included a short story with the physical edition of For Farewell Of Nostalgia; that is something that I had never done before. I had included a poem with the Japanese compilation, but never a full short story. The short story is divided into chapters, titled the same as the parts and segues of the songs, so it all ties into the concept of the extended play. People can read the short story and listen to music at the same time and follow the story-line. Vision Eternel has always been my favourite and most personal band, so I really wanted to bring in each of the elements that I liked best from my other bands, and incorporate them into my favourite band.

Tomaz: I see that the new EP is done completely by yourself, no guest musicians this time. Why such a decision?
Alexander: Vision Eternel started as a one-man band; it had to because it was used to document a past relationship from which I was unable to recover. It was not as simple as having a single song that talked about a broken heart surrounded by the rest of an album; it was a full, conceptual extended play dedicated to a past girlfriend, with each song representing the different phases that I went through, from meeting her to losing her. It was a story that could only be told from one perspective. Thankfully though, it was also a story that listeners everywhere could relate to because almost everyone has experienced heartbreak. When I composed the second extended play, a few months later, it was a continuation of that same story-line. It was about another girlfriend, one whom I had met shortly afterwards, and the emotional pain that I suffered from that break-up too. Combining the two releases gave a "Boy gets girl, boy loses girl. Boy gets girl again, boy loses girl again" situation; a theme that is explored in my favourite movie, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. Each new Vision Eternel concept extended play is a continuation of that story-line, dedicated to a different ex-girlfriend and forever documenting, audibly through music, the love, the pain and the memories. When Philip Altobelli practised with Vision Eternel, it was more-or-less on an experimental and rehearsal level. I do not mean that in a bad or unprofessional way. Phil was (and has remained) a huge fan of Vision Eternel, and I feel that he perhaps understands it better than anyone else, because he was there during my entire relationship with the girl about whom the first release was written. We met her together. So when I invited him to practice Vision Eternel songs, I knew that he understood the emotions that had gone into it and he was respectful of that. He never would have imposed his ideas, partly because it is not within his character to do that, but also because he knew how much Vision Eternel meant to me. It was actually Phil's idea to perform guitar solos on top of the basic guitar tracks that I had recorded; he was a much better guitar player than I. He became a classical guitar teacher. But Phil and I had the benefit of only performing songs that I had already composed. It would be difficult to determine, in hindsight, how the core and ideals of the band would have changed had we gotten to the point of composing new songs together. When I moved to Canada and recruited Adam Kennedy and Nidal Mourad, it was because I was hoping to play shows. I had met Adam and Nidal at Recording Arts Canada, an audio production college in downtown Montreal. The three of us were new to Montreal; I had been living in New Jersey; Nidal was from Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada; and Adam was from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I thought that we worked very well together and the songs that we practised developed extremely quickly. Again, these were not new songs written as a trio, these were songs from Vision Eternel's second extended play, Un Automne En Solitude, which we were improving and re-arranging. We built up-on songs that I had already composed. At the time, Un Automne En Solitude was fully recorded but unreleased; as soon as I heard how amazing, and different, these songs had become with the band, I strongly considered shelving the release or keeping it as a demo (instead of a concept extended play, as it had been written). The reasoning in my mind was that Vision Eternel was evolving into something else, and I was open to the idea of changing the band's name because Vision Eternel signified "me" and "my story". It did not have much room for other people's input. But Nidal quit, then Adam and I stopped practising together, and I continued to work alone through Vision Eternel. When I was finished recording Vision Eternel's third concept extended play, Abondance De Périls, I asked Adam Kennedy to master it and my roommate Marina Polak to provide a photograph for the cover art. Up until that point, I had never worked with anyone else on Vision Eternel's released material. I was the composer, performer, producer and artwork designer. But I felt that Abondance De Périls could use a little bit of help. It was a very difficult decision for me to make because I was very controlling of every aspect; I felt that it had to reflect my emotions and my story just right. I approached the same people for Vision Eternel's fourth concept extended play, The Last Great Torch Song. Marina Polak's picture was also used for the cover art, but Adam was not available for the mastering. During that phase, I was unsure of Vision Eternel's future. I thought that perhaps it would be all over after that release. So I really wanted it to be special, but I felt that the songs were missing something. So I approached about twelve to fifteen of my close musical friends and asked them to contribute something to the songs. I was hoping for this massive collaborative release, but unfortunately, a lot of them were unreliable; only four of them recorded their parts in time for the deadline. But those parts were incredible! Garry Brents added keyboards to "Sometimes In Longing Narcosis", Alexander Fawcett added guitar and bass to "Sometimes In Anticipating Moments", Howard Change added a spoken word poem to "Sometimes In Absolute Togetherness", and Eiman Iraninejad added a spoken word poem to "Sometimes In Longing Narcosis". Those songs all became completely different from their contributions; they took lives of their own. Garry Brents also wound up mastering the release, so I got to work with an all-new team on that release. Echoes From Forgotten Hearts was originally composed as a soundtrack, so I did not think of approaching anyone else; it was not needed. By the time that I was composing and recording For Farewell Of Nostalgia, from 2017 to 2019, I had grown displeased with band members and collaborators. This was not something that stemmed from Vision Eternel specifically, it was in general; it was something that I did not enjoy dealing with. Over the years, so many of my bands were forced to pass up incredible opportunities simply because a member was unreliable. I wanted Vision Eternel to be self-sufficient; that was an important factor for me. But most importantly, once For Farewell Of Nostalgia was recorded and mixed (for the second time) in 2019, it sounded perfect to me. Everything was just right, so I was not thinking about collaborations. The only person that I thought could improve the release at that point was Carl Saff at Saff Mastering. I was listening to Castevet's album The Echo & The Light one day, and I immediately thought that the person who mastered that release should master For Farewell Of Nostalgia. Carl has mastered all Castevet releases, so I was really excited to work with him. It was my first time working with a true mastering engineer. Adam and Garry are both great producers, but their studios are set up for recording and mixing. Carl's studio was built specifically for mastering, so it has an advantage over recording and mixing studios.


Tomaz: Many might think that your music is made with a plentitude of synthesizers, but that's not the thing, right?
Alexander: I do read that a lot, in reviews and fan communications. But Vision Eternel is in reality strictly a guitar and bass band. There was one song, "Sometimes In Longing Narcosis", which was recorded in 2010 and featured a guest keyboard part by Garry Brents. Otherwise, all of the music that one hears from Vision Eternel is created using guitars and basses. I have never owned a keyboard, synthesizer, sequencer or anything like that. I cannot even remember ever playing a keyboard in my life. It is something that I am completely unfamiliar with. I also do not plan on ever acquiring those types of instruments for myself. I used to get upset when people would mistakenly mention that there were keyboards, synthesizers, sequencers, or any type of electronic instruments in my music. But now, I take it as somewhat of a compliment, and I do not argue with it; I see it as being able to accomplish a sound using only a guitar, rather than the more conventional keyboard approach. I do use an eBow a lot though, and that has become a recognizable sound in Vision Eternel's songs. Perhaps what a lot of people perceive as keyboards is actually an eBow... but I was receiving mentions of keyboards well-before I started using an eBow. I purchased my eBow somewhat late in my guitar-playing career because it was so difficult finding one. I believe that Heet Sound Products may have been going through a change of distributors because it took several musical instrument stores before I found one in stock. I finally acquired an eBow Plus in September 2009, and it was used on one song from Vision Eternel's third extended play Abondance De Périls. It was then used on four of the five songs from The Last Great Torch Song and on nearly all of the songs from Echoes From Forgotten Hearts. It was one of my goals to use it on every single song from For Farewell Of Nostalgia, and I am very happy that I accomplished that. The first sound that you hear at the beginning of For Farewell Of Nostalgia is an eBow; I think that it perfectly sets the mood of things to come.

Tomaz: For Farewell Of Nostalgia is a meaningful title. Tell me more about it and what exactly did you mean by it?
Alexander: The title For Farewell Of Nostalgia was conceived pretty early on with this release, while I was composing and demoing songs in 2017; but it was not revealed until late in 2018 when the first version of the extended play was nearly completed. I was rather secretive about it and that was because of two things. First, I once revealed a work-in-progress album on social media by one of my past bands and its title and concept were stolen by another band. This other band had already recorded their release and simply pasted on the title and concept that I had worked out on top of their unrelated music, then quickly released it digitally, claiming that it was their own idea. So I have been very careful of when and how much I reveal; the release has to be very close to completion before I announce official titles. The second reason, and definitely one more important to me, was because I was not sure if I was entirely happy with the title. Nostalgia has been a very important and meaningful state of emotion throughout my life and it was extremely important that I was able to represent it honestly and respectfully. Having the word nostalgia is not only a song title ("Moments Of Nostalgia") but also the release title (For Farewell Of Nostalgia), meant that the music had to live up to it. A lot of artists like to use words in titles merely for effect; for what it projects. But for Vision Eternel, the title of a release is fully tied into the concept of the release itself; these words connect the release with the songs, with the emotions during the time of composing, with the emotions during the time of recording, and with the story-line that Vision Eternel follows. It also has to be appropriately represented with the artwork, and in the case of this particular release, with the short story that is accompanied. Everything that Vision Eternel does is so conceptually connected that a lot of thought and planning goes into it; none of it is last-minute or an afterthought. One of the lengthy processes of choosing a release title for Vision Eternel is making sure that it is original. During the composing and recording sessions, I note words that I feel are representative of the emotions that I am feeling and of the themes that are explored in the release. Once I have a few words collected, I play around with the phrasing until I get a result that sounds right to me. Vision Eternel's release titles have a certain rhythm, like a short statement-of-fact. I then extensively research the title that I came up with; if it is too similar to anything already used by someone else, I discard it. It is important to me that when people look up the title on Google, my release is the only result that appears. The meaning of For Farewell Of Nostalgia is intended to be taken with slight poetic liberty. I wanted it to read as for the well-being of nostalgia, slightly phrased in an old-fashioned English style. This concept extended play documents a lot of emotions that I look back on fondly, even though they may have been painful at the time. It is both a recollection of a past relationship and a Dear John letter to Montreal, a city that I lived in for many years. It is my way of saying "Thanks for the memories; the wonderful and the miserable; now good-bye." I am in no way forgetting these memories; I am instead stating that I will be looking back on them affectionately, in nostalgia.


Tomaz: The EP is a conceptual one, yet there are no lyrics used. I guess that guitar and bass tell everything...
Alexander: Since Vision Eternel is predominantly (and I would like to say exclusively, but that would be factually incorrect) an instrumental band, there are no lyrics. Only two Vision Eternel songs have featured vocals, more specifically spoken word vocals, but that was almost ten years ago and exclusively connected to The Last Great Torch Song. It worked well for that particular release but it was not something that I ever planned on continuing for Vision Eternel. It was an element in time. In the case of For Farewell Of Nostalgia, there are no lyrics; but there is a short story. Once I completed the re-recording of the extended play in late 2019, I spent eleven days writing a short story, a narrative, of the events that influenced the release. The story documents themes like love-at-first-sight, falling in love too fast, and the aftermath of heartbreak. Things that I experienced and dealt with prior to the composing of the music. The story is divided into chapters and sub-chapters which connect with the extended track listing of the extended play; the four main songs and the seventeen parts of those songs. It is meant to be read while listening to the release. But the short story is only available in a booklet inside the physical editions of the extended play: the advanced CD edition (Abridged Pause Recordings); the CD edition (Somewherecold Records); the cassette edition (Geertruida); and the currently unreleased phonograph record edition (pending release). It is not included with the digital edition and that was done on purpose. I did that because I wanted to give something special to the folks that went the extra mile of purchasing a physical edition of Vision Eternel's For Farewell Of Nostalgia. I also wanted to create an old-fashioned type of listening experience. A time when people would have to go out of their way, to a record store, to browse and pick-up a record; then return home, put it on their player and sit down to listen to it for the first time. For the most part, they would not have heard it beforehand. That first time listening to the music, a person would almost always be looking at the packaging; admiring the artwork, reading the studio credits, the band line-up, the liner notes, the lyrics... There seems to be a trend with the minimalism of cover art and release credits (not entirely due to the digital era) but I am not impressed by it. I really feel that part of the enjoyment of a release includes a visual accompaniment and sharing a story. I am very open and talkative with Vision Eternel's fans and followers because I want them to experience the entire concept.

Tomaz: And I guess that this original cover artwork and everything that surrounds it is also very tied within the whole concept?
Alexander: The artwork to Vision Eternel's For Farewell Of Nostalgia is definitely tied into the concept. It is adapted from the cover art of Frank Sinatra's album In The Wee Small Hours, and there is a story to that. For Farewell Of Nostalgia was recorded twice; once in 2018, then again from scratch in 2019. I was not happy with the way that the original version sounded; it sounded more like a compilation of random songs rather than a concept extended play. One of the causes was that it took me so long to compose and record the songs that my mood and motivation changed over time. Each song had a different atmosphere. When I decided to re-record For Farewell Of Nostalgia in 2019, I isolated myself in my studio to contain my mood, so that I would have the same emotions from the beginning to the end. That second recording session lasted from early October to mid-November 2019; so for that month-and-a-half, I controlled what I listened to, what I watched, what I read, who I spoke to and what I saw. In order to contain my mood, I decided that I would not listen to any music during the re-recording session (I resumed listening to music later, during the final mixing stage). I also placed two pieces of art, which I knew would help to keep me nostalgic and sad, next to my computer. The first was a painting of my grandparent's cottage, which holds some of my fondest childhood memories; the second was Frank Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours album sleeve. The album had kept me company, like a caring best friend, on late lonely nights dealing with heartbreaks. I had listened to it extensively over the years and it was a form of comfort. I took Frank Sinatra's influence one step further; I limited myself to solely watching his films during the month-and-a-half re-recording session. He is one of my favourite actors; he has calming confidence and deep sadness that shines in his dramatic roles in films like From Here To Eternity, Some Came Running, The Manchurian Candidate, The Man With The Golden Arm, Pal Joey and The Detective. I watched those films, and others, over and over again during the re-recording of For Farewell Of Nostalgia and it kept me just sad and nostalgic enough to be creative. It helped all of the songs sound like they came from the same recording session because I was able to maintain the same mood. When considering the cover art for Vision Eternel's For Farewell Of Nostalgia, it seemed so obvious; pay homage to Frank Sinatra. He had made it possible for this release to come together. I immediately thought of basing it on In The Wee Small Hours', but I did not want it to be an exact duplicate. I wanted people who were familiar with Frank Sinatra's album to immediately see the connection, but I did not want it to be as simple as my face drawn over the original cover; that would have been disrespectful. I wanted the cover art to represent me, Vision Eternel and the sadness that went into the music. On Frank Sinatra's cover, he is the main focus. The street scene behind him could be anywhere, it is nondescript, and perhaps that was the point. But since Vision Eternel's For Farewell Of Nostalgia is partly a Dear John letter to Montreal, I thought that it was important that the cover artwork represent that city. Montreal had been such an important part of my late teenage and early adult life; Vision Eternel will always have a symbolic link to that city. So there are several notable Montreal landmarks in the background: the Saint Lawrence River, the Montreal Harbour Bridge, the Sailors' Memorial Clock Tower on Victoria Pier and my favourite building, Windsor Station. I had to restrict the number of landmarks to include because I did not want to bloat the image. It had to remain relevant to In The Wee Small Hours. Another aspect of the cover art that I wanted to adapt was with regards to the figure; me. Frank Sinatra was painted as himself on his artwork, so I wanted to be myself as well. Instead of trying to find clothes that matched Frank Sinatra's, I wore my own for the photoshoot. I wore my overcoat and scarf (instead of a suit and tie), one of my own wide-brimmed fedoras (instead of a narrow-brimmed fedora), I smoked my pipe (instead of a cigarette) and I did not shave off my horseshoe moustache. Once I had a composite image of the artwork, which was compiled from several photoshoots done with Jeremy Roux and Rain Frances, I contacted several different illustrators. I wanted to find someone who was able to paint pulp-style artwork, and only a handful of artists can really get it right nowadays. One of them is Michael Koelsch. I discovered him because of his work with The Criterion Collection; he illustrated a couple of their releases. But he also did a lot of film posters, book covers and even some album covers in the early 1990s for established bands. Michael Koelsch was already a fan of Frank Sinatra and knew In The Wee Small Hours well, so he was very excited to work on the project and bring in his own emotional connection. He painted a full 16x9 piece which I used for the front and back cover. The original painting turned out nicer than I could have possibly imagined. It is by far the best artwork I have ever had on any of my releases (by any band). I am already looking forward to working with Michael Koelsch on Vision Eternel's next release. There is one more piece of artwork that is very important to the concept and that is the painting used for the short story booklet. That was painted by Rain Frances and it has a beautiful sadness to it that works really well with the mood of the short story. The painting starts out slightly brighter, more vibrant at the beginning of the story, but it gets very dark by the end of it. Rain also provided different paintings for the other physical editions. For example, on the advanced CD edition, the CD face has a paint splatter; on the CD edition, the back of the short story booklet has another painting; and finally, the cassette edition has yet another artwork on the sticker of the bonus tape Lost Misfortunes: A Selection Of Demos And Rarities (Part Two). Rain Frances had previously painted the artwork for Lost Misfortunes: A Selection Of Demos And Rarities (Part One) in 2017, so it was important for me that I return to the same person for the follow-up.


Tomaz: You came up with the description of your music as "melogaze". Even though there could be a long debate about what really your music is, I'm interested to know what does the term "melogaze" mean to you?
Alexander: I came up with the term melogaze in 2010, after three-and-a-half years of struggling to find a matching genre for Vision Eternel. It was not so much that I did not want my music to be labelled; it was more the fact that others refused to accept Vision Eternel in any of the styles that had been proposed by friends and fans. When I first started composing music for Vision Eternel, I was not trying to copy anyone nor had any styles in mind. The music was as natural and uninhibited as it could possibly be. I had nothing to prove, no one to impress, and no record label to entice since I was planning to release it through my own imprint Mortification Records. So Vision Eternel was and has always remained my most organic output. It was only after Vision Eternel's debut extended play, Seul Dans L'obsession, was released in mid-February of 2007 that I tried to find out what type of music I was making. I wanted to call it dark ambient because it seemed like the normal thing to label a black metal musician's solo side-project, but there were no keyboards or electronics, and my music was slightly more hopeful and optimistic than dark ambient projects. So the dark ambient community was very quick to reject Vision Eternel. I do not mean that people who enjoy dark ambient did not also enjoy Vision Eternel, it was more that they did not see the music as fitting within the closely-knit scene; I did not sound like them = I was not one of them. But that was okay because I did not listen to dark ambient music anyway. I started to look for other dark ambient-like music that was based on guitars; I wanted to find out what genre they called their music, but I was not finding anything. I was not able to find any artist or band that sounded like Vision Eternel. And I looked for a long time. I do not want to come across as someone who claims to have invented something new; I think that Vision Eternel's music is straight-forward and basic. But I think that I have my own style and sound and that is distinct from other artists out there. I eventually landed on the ethereal and darkwave scene. That scene was more in line with the gothic rock and gothic electronic scenes than the metal scene, but I saw some elements as similar to Vision Eternel. Unfortunately, it was made clear by that community that there were no electronics in my music. So Vision Eternel was, therefore, neither ethereal nor darkwave. That was okay too because I did not listen to ethereal or darkwave music. In the summer of 2007, I was finally introduced to "real" ambient. When I applied to Recordings Arts Canada, the audio production college in Montreal, it was required that I send in some of my recordings. I submitted a selection of Vision Eternel songs. The person who reviewed my file, and ultimately accepted me into the school program, was very impressed by my recordings and said that it reminded him of Brian Eno's album The Shutov Assembly. That was the first time that I had ever heard of Brian Eno. I listened to The Shutov Assembly and thought that it was a good release, but it never became a staple in my playlist. Then I thought of trying to bond with the ambient community, but once again, Vision Eternel's lack of keyboards made for a quick dismissal. That too was okay because I was not a listener of ambient music. I was not aware of any guitar-based ambient music at that time; I did not know that this existed. At the time, guitar-based ambient music was usually called post-rock. I discovered post-rock around the same time that I started my second record label Abridged Pause Recordings in 2008. I was exposed to a lot of really good underground post-rock and post-metal bands. Surprisingly, the post-rock community was very quick to embrace Vision Eternel, but not without some opposition. Half of the post-rock fans that I talk to are happy to call Vision Eternel a post-rock band; the other half is insulted that a band with no drums would use that label. So there again, Vision Eternel was not a perfect fit. In early 2010, I was introduced to shoegaze and dream pop through my friend Eiman Iraninejad. I thought that this community might be open to welcoming Vision Eternel... but this time it was the lack of vocals that put them off. I was never a huge shoegaze fan, I only liked a handful of bands, so that was okay too. But shoegaze partly influenced the coining of the term melogaze in September 2010. I used the gaze from shoegaze because I had read that the genre was very introspective and introverted; those adjectives matched Vision Eternel's themes and concept perfectly. The first part of the word "melo", came from melodrama, as in my love for dramatic films and the fact that Vision Eternel's music was always based and themed on drama, heartbreaks and love. I later found out that the word melodrama itself actually means dramatic music; so in its truest sense of the word, Vision Eternel should simply be called melodrama. Many years later, I discovered that someone had come up with the term dream rock, which I thought was really nice and could have fitted Vision Eternel pretty well. But I had already come up with the term melogaze by that time and I stuck with it. I additionally attempted to introduce Vision Eternel to the space rock community; a scene that is backed by very open-minded folks. They have been receptive to Vision Eternel, and appreciate my music. But since Vision Eternel lacks that psychedelic element, it does not fully qualify as a space rock band. This was the same case for the space ambient scene. Several people have also used the term drone when describing Vision Eternel but I personally do not see a connection. I do not listen to drone music, I do not have an ear for it. I do, however, take a lot from emo music, specifically midwest emo bands from the 1990s. But I know that Vision Eternel cannot be labelled an emo band. It is far too different. Lately, a few of my friends have described Vision Eternel as the heavy atmosphere and post-post-black metal. I am flattered by this and I would love to embrace those terms if a scene is to develop around it. Vision Eternel has been looking for a home for a long time. I know that Vision Eternel has elements of ambient, dark ambient, ethereal, darkwave, post-rock, space rock, space ambient, shoegaze, dream pop, dream rock, emo, drone and post-black metal; but it is not any one of those genres alone. That is what melogaze is. It is all of those styles, plus a lot of drama, carefully mixed together.

Tomaz: If I'm not mistaken, your first musical endeavours were in black metal bands, right?
Alexander: I did not actually discover black and death metal until the autumn of 2004, and by that time, I had already been playing the guitar for nearly two years and had also been in a few bands. My very first band was called Les Rocker's, which I believe was active around early 1999, and consisted of my sisters and I playing cover songs, most notably The Offspring's "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)". I wish that I could recall some of the other songs that we played. We performed when family members visited. After receiving my first real guitar in December 2002, I started composing my own music. From June 2003 to January 2004, I played in The Slopin Fairy 7, which was a mix of what I had been listening to during the previous four years: punk rock, alternative rock, nu-metal, industrial metal and britt pop. In the summer of 2003, I also played in the acoustic folk duo The Tom & Alex Project. I then played in the nu-metal/metalcore band Scapegoat from roughly April to October 2004. I continued to compose music on my own from late 2004 to the summer of 2005 but I had difficulty finding band members. In the summer of 2005, I started a new band which eventually became Throne Of Mortality. For the first couple of months, Throne Of Mortality played death metal, but I quickly found that I was enjoying, and more apt at playing, black metal. So Throne Of Mortality became my black metal band and I started Projection Mina for my death metal and thrash metal songs. Throne Of Mortality eventually broke up in January 2007 while Projection Mina lasted until November 2007. Within that time, I also started several other bands and side projects. Soufferance was a dark ambient band that started in September 2006 and is currently on permanent hold. Vision Solitude was a dark folk project which began in October 2006 and existed sporadically until March 2010. Vision Lunar was an atmospheric black metal band that somewhat picked up where Throne Of Mortality left off, but with different themes and concepts. Vision Lunar originally existed from October 2006 to March 2007; then again from August 2007 to some time in early 2009. I finally brought Vision Lunar back in 2015 and plan to record more material in the future. I was also in a black ambient band called Gallia Fornax from February to March 2007; that music would today be called dungeon synth, but at the time, that term did not exist. From the summer of 2007 to the summer of 2008, I played in the metalcore band Human Infect. I also joined the indie rock band Green Territory on bass from August to September 2007. Between January 2010 and February 2011, I spent a considerable amount of time and energy in a blackened sludge metal band named Lanterns Awake. I also collaborated with the Mexican classical ambient band Éphémère on three occasions over the years: first from February to May 2010, then in February 2013 and most recently in June and July 2015. I eventually started my own international ambient collective called Citadel Swamp, which existed from October 2010 to December 2016 and featured a lot of notable band members. Finally, I played in the sludge metalcore band Murder On Redpath from December 2010 to August 2011. That rounds out my performance career outside of Vision Eternel.


Tomaz: Huh, so much different stuff... So, I know that Vision Eternel is your main project/band right now, but are you active right now also anywhere else? You mentioned that with Vision Lunar you will record some new material, and I wonder when can we expect that to be released? How about for Vision Eternel, what are the future plans? Are you already working on something new?
Alexander: I made the decision in December 2016 to put all of my efforts into Vision Eternel. I had been struggling with writer's block for a few years prior to that, and I realized that it was due to the pressure and struggle of managing too many bands and projects. Up until that point, I was active in Vision Eternel, Vision Lunar, Soufferance, Citadel Swamp, and operating my record label Abridged Pause Recordings, all at the same time. I would at times come up with a really great guitar part for one band, but its sound was too similar to that of another band so it would not get used. By focusing on only one band, and being less restrictive about what compositional styles and sounds I can use, it makes it easier for me to keep all of the best material available for Vision Eternel. With that said, Vision Eternel is my only active band at the moment, but Vision Lunar is on a hiatus. All of the other previously-mentioned bands have been put to rest. The main difference between Vision Eternel and Vision Lunar, in the way that I approach compositions, is that Vision Lunar is a metal band and Vision Eternel is an ambient band. I do hope to compose and release more material for Vision Lunar in the far future, but I have nothing in works. As for Vision Eternel's future, I spent almost four years working on For Farewell Of Nostalgia, so I plan to continue the promotion for some time. I have some ideas noted for the next concept extended play, but it is very far in the future. I do not work as quickly as other bands do; so many artists release quantity over quality, and I am against that. Vision Eternel's For Farewell Of Nostalgia deserves a fair share of exposure, not only because record labels have invested financially into it but because several people have invested their artistic efforts as well. I am very proud of it and of the emotional investments that Rain Frances, Michael Koelsch, Christophe Szpajdel, Carl Saff, Jeremy Roux, JJ Koczan, Jon Rosenthal, Caleb Newton, Jason T. Lamoreaux and Yannick Tinbergen have, in one form or another, put into it. Vision Eternel's For Farewell Of Nostalgia's CD edition is available through Somewherecold Records, limited to 100 copies; the compact cassette edition is available through Geertruida, limited to 50 copies; and the advanced CD edition is available through Abridged Pause Recordings, limited to 32 copies. Each features a different exclusive bonus track. I am still looking for a record label to release the Phonograph Record edition, which will also feature a different bonus track and additional bonus physical material.

Tomaz: And in the end, I have to ask you if is Vision Eternel about to play live shows? Have you ever performed live with it?
Alexander: A handful of Vision Eternel compositions have been performed in a public setting in the past, but there has never been a Vision Eternel concert. There was a time when that interested me; when I invited Nidal Mourad and Adam Kennedy to join the band in early 2008. However, this interest has faded with time, and I no longer feel the necessity to perform publicly. I have become somewhat of a recluse over the years, and I do not enjoy attending concerts. I always preferred studio environments and studio recordings to public performances. I would not be opposed to performing live with another band in the future, but Vision Eternel will remain a studio band.

Vision Eternel discography:
- Seul Dans L’obsession (2007)
- Un Automne En Solitude (2008)
- An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes (2009)
- Abondance De Périls (2010)
- The Last Great Torch Song (2012)
- Echoes From Forgotten Hearts (2015)
- An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes (2018, released as a boxed set)
- For Farewell Of Nostalgia (2020)

Vision Eternel links: Official website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp