Daniel Hay: So the main reason I’ve been handed over this interview is because my band actually opened for Alcest on your last New Zealand tour, and you’re one of our biggest influences, so I was given this opportunity.
Neige: That’s great, what was the name of your band?
The Dark Third, we played the Auckland show, which if you recall was in quite a small underground venue.
Ah yes, that’s so cool.
So I wanted to talk about the live side of the music first. I actually went to both shows on that tour, in Auckland and in Wellington, and they were both quite different, which I felt was quite interesting. Wellington was quite a meditative show, whereas Auckland was quite aggressive and a lot more metal. And I recall, you actually changed your encore song from Deliverance to Percees de Lumiere, is that something you do often, changing the songs to fit the room?
No actually, we never really do this, so that may have been the only time. Because we work with a computer project, it’s not simple for us to just switch to another song if we want. So that is strange. But yeah, I remember as you said these two shows were completely different. The first one was quite atmospheric and intimate, and the other one was intimate in a very ‘punk’ style.
It was moved to that venue last-minute. I greatly enjoyed that show, because it showed a different side to your music. The heavier songs, everyone got quite into it, as if it was a punk show, as you said.
Yes, but it was a great show. It was so much fun. People were actually doing mosh pits and stuff.
Yes I remember then fondly. One other thing I noticed from your live setup then was, in contrast to a lot of bands in your area of music, you didn’t have many guitar pedals.
No, no. It’s because I think having like 20 pedals is bullshit. I mean, you don’t need 20 pedals, I have always had two or three. Distortion, delay and reverb. I am then using my guitar volume and tone control to get different gains during the songs. I’m trying to do more with the least amount of gear possible, because when you travel and when you play that many shows, the more gear you have, the more chance there is that something doesn’t work properly. So we try to have very limited amounts of cables and pedals.
And for me, a song works fine just how it is with melodies, and all the rest is just to embellish the sound and make it even better, but that’s something you do more in the studio.
And with the new record, this is a bit of a heavier one, are you going to change any of your live setup to reflect that?
It’s more or less the same, but I am using a different distortion pedal, so the new one is a bit more metal. But the rest, the reverb and delay, they are the same. My shitty Bose delay, and I have a Hall of Fame reverb pedal that I really love, it’s very simple.
So onto the new album, which I’ve been loving recently. It is a bit of a heavier record, which interests me – a lot of bands in your area of music tend to either get progressively heavier or progressively softer. You’ve sort of jumped around a bit and gone from one extreme to the other, with this being probably the heaviest record under the Alcest name, what inspired you to take this direction this time around?
Yeah, that’s a really good point. I mean, we’ve already done the heavy band going soft with Shelter, so that’s something that I’ve done already. And this time it’s heavier and darker because I was in a moment in my life when I had a lot of anxiety and a lot of darker types of emotions. And it was after the very, very long touring cycle of Kodama, so I was feeling really exhausted. I kind of lost touch with who I was, because you are on tour, you are always surrounded by people and you’re doing very down to earth things. And I feel I lost touch with my real essence, because I’m a very spiritual person. I like to spend some time in nature.
And you don’t have time to get to nature when touring.
Yeah, or even just being alone and reflecting. That’s something that you just can’t do, so I had this frustration and anxiety accumulating. And when it was time to write new music, I guess everything just came out. In a very violent way, actually.
This almost feels like the first Alcest record with actual metal ‘riffs’ on it, not just black metal tremolos.
One other style of music I’ve noticed in this record is at times it feels quite post-punk, particularly in the prominence of the bass guitar. You’ve mentioned The Chameleons as an artist you admire in the past, was that a conscious influence on this record?
Absolutely, that kind of music I’ve been listening to since I was a teenager, so it’s been a really big part of my influences, especially the guitar leads and the guitar sound. I’ve never really been into like ‘heavy metal’ or things like that, I’m more like an indie kid with some black metal. So my type of guitar leads are more like the type of guitar you can hear in The Chameleons or U2 or The Cure, as opposed to Iron Maiden or Metallica.
So all their guitar work has influenced me, for example the chorus that I put on leads. And I love the bass in post-punk too, the rhythmic patterns. But it’s very subtle, it’s not something you can really hear in Alcest’s music clearly, but it’s definitely there.
I think this is the album I’ve heard it the most out of your material. It’s actually quite a groovy record, which isn’t a description you’d expect to put on an Alcest album – for example Sapphire is carried quite a lot by the bass in it.
Definitely, yeah that song has quite a bit of it.
And obviously, I have to throw in the obligatory question about touring New Zealand again. You mentioned Kodama having a long touring cycle, is this one going to be the same?
I really wish we would go back to New Zealand, and I think we will. It’s a part of the plan, probably next year actually. That would be awesome, we really loved touring there, it was the first time for us and we have so many great memories and met great people. And the crowd was very good too, they were… enthusiastic.
Yes it was a great tour, and you’ll have to find a way to the South Island next time. Much better nature there if you need a break too.
Hopefully. Both shows were a success last time so perhaps we can.
Well thank you for your time, and good luck with the new album release. I’ve been enjoying listening to it and I think the fans will appreciate the new sound. I hope to see you on the tour as well.
Spiritual Instinct is out on Nuclear Blast Records October 25th
iTunes preorder: https://music.apple.com/au/album/spiritual-instinct/1474788010
Interview by Daniel Hay