GLORIOUS TIMES is proud to be able to re-connect with a long-time old friend who has done much to champion the extreme music scene, and stood firm for decades flying the flag for the French Connection, which at one time was made up of few but extremely dedicated individuals.
If you have any strands linking you to the beginning - you will rejoice with us in REMEMBERING NONOS!
It's been a long dam time since we had contact (Alan and Michel). I dare say it's been 21 years by now, we were just teenagers back when we used to write to each other concerning Mutilator, and then Mutilated. The 'Psychodeath Lunatics' demo is now universally credited, all these years later, as one of the classic underground demo tapes. Do you still hold that same conviction that the material has stood the test of time?
MICHEL -Well, actually I truly have a great memories from that era but I also do avoid listening to this! The songs were good but our playing back then was so un-tight! And at this time, we exactly knew it lacked of professionalism and that we still had to improve our skills, but the purpose was to play Death Metal, wasn't it? That's also why we didn't want to record any album immediately. In order to leave ourselves time to grow up, musically. So I'd say those tracks are now to me more like a testimony from the past rather than a "true" musical masterpiece.
You may not agree with this statement, that in general, the Mutilated material bore at least a little inspiration from the earliest days of Florida's Massacre. In the course of the decades to pass, which, if any, of the bands surviving those early years continued to play a part in your musical development and direction?
MICHEL - Maybe there was an influence from Massacre, as we were big fans of them, I don't know.. Any of the bands we'd listen back then may have had a influence anyway, I guess. I remember also Pentagram, Morbid Angel, Haunting The Chapel/Hell Awaits' era Slayer, Repulsion, and many more being part of our inspiration. As for nowadays.. hmm.. I have got rid of any direct influences, I do write songs in a way that I believe is more personal than before, just looking inside of my inner self and letting things flow out through my instrument. I think music really looks like handwriting: once you've learn how to make it and got years of practice behind, you can develop your own manner to draw letters. Same with music. That's why there are so many different ways to play the same song according to who's doing it.
After Mutilated, can you give a time line as to what you've been up to in music since? I am sure there is a lot to tell?
MICHEL - Just after the Mutilated days, I founded Abyssals who recorded a demo a few months later, then I kicked almost everybody out of the band and got a new line-up together but it was like I was the only one truly involved in this project, so after something like one year and a half we split up. Then, began a weird period of my life, on the personal side of things, and although I gave a hand to several bands here and there, I almost did nothing really concrete. But I was still keeping on practicing guitar on my own. After a few months I meet Vincent who I knew for some couples of years from the time his band and Mutilated were sharing the same rehearsal room, and he was on the process of searching musicians in order to play a one and only show with his one-man project band Akhenaton. He asked me if I could help him with this and we started to rehearse, but shortly after the idea aborted due to various issues, and I started progressively to replace the guitarist of his other band Winds Of Sirius, with who I recorded an album as a session member. Right after this I told Vince I would not keep on with the band, as I wasn't satisfied with the music and the line-up. Then, he decided to split up and we formed The Seven Gates, my current gang, and after a mini-cd and one full length album, we are still writing the suite of the history. That's it!
Did you ever get married during those years Michel and if so, how has life been for you?
MICHEL - Yes Alan, I just got married last year and this is absolutely great! Wearing a necktie was a nice experience too! Haha!
Which, if any, of those early bands we hold dear still remain an influence - to any degree, large or small?
MICHEL - Yes, Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi is one of my all-times fave guitarists and was in my opinion the first to play solos the Death Metal's way. Frenzy, chaotic, yet fully mastered. But once again, I don't feel any direct influence from any band by now. Honestly said.
Was any demo officially circulated for The Seven Gates, or was it right into the studio after material was developed?
MICHEL - Yes, we released a mixed rehearsal for the purpose of getting a contract with a label, but although some peoples own it, we didn't spread it as a public demo.
Are your attitudes to recording and getting what you envisage musically still basically the same as when we were kids or are you a lot more strict and tenacious to squeeze out just exactly what you want the recordings to be like?
MICHEL - Well, yes I tend to stick to what I want a track to sound like, but I'm much more open to suggestions from any competent person. It's cool to try things out that I wouldn't have thought by myself, and if it makes it sounds better, fine! But if I don't feel any improvement, I turn it down radically. That's why we have so much arguments with Vincent, because he's a character with a strong personality and we do not agree all the time as to how a song or a riff should be supposed to sound like. But well, in the end we always find agreements we both are pleased with, so this is the main thing.
The response to T7G has been like what? Do people realize the truly historical connection between the band and the earliest of times for extreme music? Not just from the French contingent, but as a top running musician from the old era on a global scale.
MICHEL - Not at all! Haha! Many people listening to my current band tend to say we are ripping off old-school Death Metal, which is really kinky! I mean.. Shit! We're not playing "old-skull" Death Metal, we ARE old chaps now and still not playing your trendy emo-deathcore shit in order to make one's fifteen years old girlfriend finding we're the hot band to be into just to be cool. On the other hand, the good thing is most of nowadays greenhorns do find it great, regardless on if it's old-school or not. Overall, the response was pretty good. We gained a strong reputation here, and are struggling to spread it worldwide, which is a helluva hard job.
As a fellow "old-timer" (hehe) - and not having had communications for a long time - can you share the most positive and also the most negative things you've seen about 'the scene' on a world level, but also on a personal level. IE: the biggest enjoyment you've gotten and the biggest disappointments. You can apply this to the world scene and then to your personal experience as a musician.
MICHEL - Good question.. I'd say the negative things would be the deviance of the Death Metal movement's codes from people unaware of its essence who transvestite them into mere gimmicks because they found out it makes them look cool, or supposedly. This goes from clothes to music. I can not consider classic arpeggios played at 240 bpm as Death Metal just because it is fast, this is an empty shell. Fast, technical, whatever.. but empty.
Also, on the personal side, playing with musicians whose mouths are full of promises first and who appear then to lack of motivation after a few months.. It's something I ended up finding utterly unbearable!
On the world scene level, the coming of Internet in our lives was both a good and a not-so-good thing: downloading spoils small bands from their money, but helps them getting spread, it also allowed more efficiency to get in touch with people much faster to book live shows, interviews (- ....no comment about my delay, Alan! haha! -), etc.. but it melts the good and the bad, every band get exposure, have their own site, etc.. while crappy outfit were more rapidly cast to oblivion in the hand-written mails' days, good and bad reputation were made quicker.
And the nice one for the end, on the positive side: playing in front of large audiences is such a blast! I do enjoy performing live really a lot! Also I do so much love our work with The Seven Gates, the excitement is way above what it used to be with any of my previous bands! Writing a new song, watching it grow.. Tastes like fatherhood! Haha!
Have your toured much over the years Michel?
MICHEL - Actually, not as much as I'd have wanted, mainly because of recurrent line-up issues, but things should go better now.
A LOT of people in Canada were very very disappointed that the whole Canadian 2010 tour was canceled. It seems like the tour was just unorganized from the start (?). Do you care to reveal anything at all about that situation?
MICHEL - Yes, we were really pissed off too. Actually, we were supposed to play 19 shows and among this, 3 of this venues were bars/clubs. And we needed work permits for those only 3 dates, and because of this they didn't allow us to enter the country, despite we proposed to simply cancel them. I heard the same thing happened to Monstrosity a few months ago. Canadian customs seem to be familiar with this fucked up way of doing. I was the only one of the band to then stay in New York City for one month, and got a job there, met new friends, hanged out with them at shows, did some evil parties and stuff.. In the end, on the personal side of things, it was rather funny but I regret not having had the opportunity to play in front of our Canadian fans. But this is only postponed, I can tell you!
What sort of stuff did you get up to since you stayed behind for an extra month in NY? Where did you stay and sight see and so on?
MICHEL - Well, once there we got in touch with the french embassy in NY and the girl we spoke to sent us to a friend of her who runs a hotel in Harlem. After a few days, the other guys decided to fly back to homeland, but I couldn't resign myself to leave and I decided to stay, despite I didn't know how to pay for a flat, food, etc.. As some members of my family live now in Pennsylvania, I first intended to get in touch and join them there, but couldn't reach them. So the hotel's owner offered me to work for her what I gladly accepted, and then I started exploring NYC on my spare time, because it's a city I've been loving since I first came here 12 years ago. Randomly walk and discover towns by myself is something I so much enjoy, NYC and Tokyo were my best experiences, as far as this feeling goes.
For that matter - in keeping with the concept of Glorious Times - would you share a special experience or anecdote about your times in the glory days - anything at all is OK to speak about.
MICHEL - Oh well, there are plenty! But there was this guy from Japan who was craving for Mutilated pictures, and I told him since we didn't own any camera I couldn't send him new pictures of the band. And then a few weeks later, I receive his camera he has just sent me through mail in order for me to take Mutilated pictures! Haha! I believe this sums up the whole Death Metal spirit! "When there's a will, there's a way".. I think you guys say something like that in English.
What do you foresee as the current agenda for the band once you return to France?
MICHEL - We just got rid of our drummer and got another one into the band, so we're now currently rehearsing the old material with him and writing some new songs. And we shall be headlining a 2 days festival in Switzerland on the 15th of January. Then, we'll keep on working on an Eastern Europe tour, which should hopefully be set up by April/May 2011.
You haven't seen Glorious Times (the book) - I don't think? But what do you think about the concept? How much have you heard about it from others and what is your impression of undertaking a book of the sort we have done (and are trying to get reprinted)? (editors note: by now of course the book was reprinted, in an extended and revised format)
MICHEL - Not yet, which is a shame, but I should get a copy through a friend quite soon. The idea is just brilliant! Death Metal has been a huge part of my life for more than a quarter of century now, and that's great to see someone releases a book on that matter! Moreover, we know each other since something like 1987 and you're definitely not a new-comer, so I know that you know what you're writing about. This is nothing less than a history book, and no history should remain ignored. Congratulations for your work and dedication to the scene, Alan!
FOLLOW THESE OMENS OF DARK FATE!
Links to The Seven Gates
(This is the label that released the debut T7G album)