An Interview with Ardraos – Sühnopfer…
It is indeed a great honour to interview a musician that composes music that I highly admire in some of my favourite bands. For that, I thank you. We shall focus on your compositions for Sühnopfer, in my modest view, one of the best underground French bands these days. You have mentioned, before, that your music is influenced by Scandinavian acts. I personally feel that there is also a strong French feel in it. It is interesting how it is raw and yet beautiful. Could you comment on your ideas for the compositions, how you work when it comes to the composition process and how hard it is to come up with such interesting, mesmerizing music?
Ardraos – Hail! Yes in my early stages I was very influenced by the Scandinavian melodic black metal of the 90s, and it is normal to have mentors when we launch into compositions for the first times, to reproduce unconsciously what we like listening to. I was able little by little to progress in a more personal approach afterward, this evolution was made in connection with my progress in the practice of instruments and in my centers of interest which concerned to certain aspects of medieval period and relics left by this period even today. The process of composition for Sühnopfer can be rather long, everything depends on the time which I can dedicate it. Generally, everything starts with riffs which I compose on guitar, I already spend a lot of time to search a perfect form for them, I have to feel something by playing them, tones have to be suggestive to me. Then things become more complex, it is necessary to be able to assemble these riffs of the best possible way to obtain a well-balanced and fluid song, then work on the arrangements of several lines of guitars for an even better result. The work on drum parts is made separately and during long months before the recording, to give a solid and enriching basis to the songs. Next to this “technical” process, there is also a quest for the themes which could correspond and inspire me texts and atmospheres.
Still on the creation of Sühnopfer, it is very impressive that you are the sole member of this band, as the creations are very complex and indeed of high standards. You can clearly see that the band is evolving more and more in each releasing, culminating with the amazing Offertoire. Let us know how did you get involved with music, your training in music, what drew you to play this style. I read that you started with the accordion. Could you share with us the reasons for that? Also, how do you see yourself as a musician, you can play several instruments, but, do you see yourself as a drummer, as a guitarist?
Ardraos – Yes I began the music with the practice of the accordion from the age of 6, mostly because it is a traditional instrument very appreciated in my region, and which my grandparents were proud to see me playing. But I was also very interested in drums being a child, but it is only approximately at the age of 14/15 that I began to truly learn it. It is true that almost all my participations in groups were made on drums, but for Sühnopfer I really try to put myself to 100% in every instrument separately. I worked a lot in my early stages to reach a good technical level, but I don’t make that in a so rigorous way today. I try to repeat the most often that my time allows it during months preceding the recording of an album, I try to obtain the good tones and to execute them in a way which suits me. Outside these periods, I work less on my instruments.
I ask you to tell us what draws you to create music. In a way, if you can answer, what has influenced and inspired you to play, to craft the musical style that you do. As for Sühnopfer lyrics, what are your main sources of inspirations? And how do your surroundings, the region you live, help shaping not only your lyrics, but also the music you create?
Ardraos – As I said it previously, I was influenced in my early stages by melodies developed by bands like Sacramentum, Dissection, Setherial … Then afterward I was able to personalize my compositions by developing matching tones with some themes as to fit into a medieval, knightly, obscurantist and religious dimension, by adding aspects of my “terroir”, typical of my homeland. Even nowadays, this land still shows how powerful, glorious and dark it was with its wooded countryside, forests, ruins, and many different landscapes, villages, relics and natural sites. I try to draw the energy which will liven up my music on this atmosphere. Some lyrics deal with more religious themes while the others tackle locations and legends from my region, but still in a medieval context.
Offertoire is a work of art, it really has some beautiful, melancholic, melodic and epic compositions. Just when the album starts, you can see that it’s going to be great. Many parts are “ear orgasm” inducing. Do you feel that this will be the future of Sühnopfer’s music or do you think that you will make some changes in this field? I am still highly impressed by Offertoire’s quality and would like to see a follow-up someday. Speaking of that, please, let us know if you are planning any new release for Sühnopfer.
Ardraos – Thank you for these compliments! I try to arrange songs to have the best melodic result. The evolution of the compositions is rather gradually made since several albums, I think that you can notice a progress with “Offertoire”, since the demos and “Nos Sombres Chapelles”. My purpose is naturally to stay in the same vein of black melodic and medieval metal, but not to redo the same album two times. You will be satisfied to know that I’m beginning actually to work on new songs, there will be thus probably a follow up for “Offertoire”, but I cannot tell you when! In the meantime, we have just released a LP version of «Nos Sombres Chapelles” which is worth seeing.
Could you tell us the main reason or reasons why Sühnopfer is a one man band? Well, not only Sühnopfer, you also created another one man band, Veratyr. Anyways, back to the question, I have heard from other musicians that they did not want their visions being “contaminated” or “tarnished”. Others simply felt it was much simpler to work this way. What about Sühnopfer and Veratyr. In addition, what are the main advantages and disadvantages, if any in your case, about being the sole member of a band?
Ardraos – I did not really ask myself the question at first, I simply wanted to create my own songs by realizing everything by myself, contrary to the groups in which I participated only as drummer. Being on my own allows me to have the necessary thinking for the creation of good songs, to work again its parts and instruments without constraint, and especially to express a very personal musical vision, it is really my first approach with Sühnopfer. The disadvantages are obviously that everything sets more time to set up and to record, and that I also depend on availability of my sound engineer. Concerning Veratyr, it was a limited project, the approach was inverse with almost improvised songs.
As mentioned on the previous question, Veratyr, another band that you are the sole member, has released a new album last year, in fact, a split with Aquila and Charogne. All being Black Metal bands. Could you talk about this split, how it was conceived, where it’s available to be purchased and if you are planning on releasing a full-length album of Veratyr and/ or Charogne?
Ardraos – We released these recordings at request of our friend of Aquila who had just recorded some tracks.The tracks of Charogne were recorded in 2009, without a specially perspective of release at that time, they were only the emanation of a very limited project between M. (live Guitarist of Aorlhac and live bass player for Peste Noire), Snorr (guitarist of Lemovice, Wolfsangel and live Peset Noire) and myself. I recorded the tracks of Veratyr at that time also. It thus was the opportunity to release them really. For the moment there is nothing planned in the future for Veratyr or Charogne. The Split is available on tape on the website of the label: http://werewolf-webshop.pl/product_info.php?products_id=5400&language=en
Two other bands that you are involved with are Wolfsangel and Aorlhac. I admit that, when it comes to Wolfsangel, I am not very familiar with it, although I would like to. Could you share with us some words about this band? I believe that there are also two other members that also play with Peste Noire. As for Aorlhac, another French band that I highly admire. I guess you can see that the French scene is, perhaps, my favourite one. Do you know if the band is working on something new? You play the drums at the concerts… are there any plans for live gigs of this amazing band?
Ardraos – Wolfsangel plays some pagan/heavy/rac metal, we’re actually recording an album that will probably be the first and the last one. We’re also recording something new with Aorlhac, I’ve recorded the drums recently, and this album will be a killer one, I hope it will be released next year. We’ve made some gigs a few years ago, but I don’t know if we’ll perform future shows, let’s release the new album first.
How did you get involved with the band Lemovice? The play a very interesting RAC musical style, pumping, radical. For anyone that still isn’t familiar with this band, could you talk a bit about it? Plus, the band was recently touring in Brazil? How was the experience of this show?
Ardraos – I came to play for this bands by means of friends and while I already played drums in Wolfsangel, both groups did some gigs often together. I began with some replacements for concerts, then I recorded the last album “the Front of the Patriots” as well as a cover album. Unfortunately and for personal reasons I was not able to be a part of the trip in Brazil, but the others told to me that everything had been well. However, I was able for example to go to Portugal, Poland or to Canada with Lemovice last year.
In a way connected to the previous question, how do you personally feel when you see that there are people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds that actually enjoy the art you create? We are all aware that “fame” isn’t your goal, but, how important is it for you to hear from people that they actually enjoy your music, that they admire your work?
Ardraos – Yet fortunately, I’m not looking for fame; I just want to do what I like the best I can… If people get interested in it, it’s obviously rewarding (what’s the point of busting your ass to make the best album possible, otherwise?). And if some people are interested in my music, (they’re maybe not millions but more and more with each album), it is that they share my vision of what is certain kind of black metal, and maybe because my music is honestly made and that the result is authentic and worth being appreciated for its value. Finally, it’s funny to see how what was a personal approach in the beginning, is speaking to a lot of people now.
Speaking of gigs, concerts, I read that Peste Noire is going to play in some big metal festivals, one of them is a highly respected and underground, which there is no need to mention in this interview. Some friends have played there as well, in Italy. What are you expecting from these concerts and what can the admirers of your music expect from you? How is Peste Noire preparing for them? And has anyone already threatened to boycott those festivals, as usual?
Ardraos – We’ve been rehearsing for several months to prop up our show, with a set list which will cover almost all the discography of the band. There is naturally a strong waiting from the public because the band had not appeared on stage for several years. We’ll try to be the most sincere possible in the execution of the songs and to give our best. Our first date takes place at the end of October in France, then we shall go to play in several countries of Europe after it. Some gigs need to be organized almost in secret to not be subject to the pressures of cancellations, particularly in France and in Germany. You’ve certainly also heard about the boycott of Napalm Death for our participation to a festival in Norway. There will always be people whom our artistic vision will not please because so-called “too much politicized” and which will try to make cancel our concerts, but that will not stop us to play.
It is a must in my interviews to ask a few things about the man behind the music. A few personal questions just to get to know you better, but nothing intrusive, obviously. I would like you to let us know some of your favourite activities, hobbies, movies, etc, what you enjoy doing in your free time. Are you more of a beer or wine guy? France has great ones in both categories anyways. I highly enjoy French beers, Cuvée des Jonquilles, La bière des Sans Culottes, Castelain Blond Biere De Garde or even the usual Kronenbourg 1664 and the always needed Jenlain Ambrée.
Ardraos – Well, as you can guess it, my free time is often limited haha. I was very busy recently by the renovation of my house (an old priory of medieval times) and I have to spend years of work if I want to redo the whole lot. Except my musical activities, I am obviously interested in the historical heritage of my region, by going on some places or by readings, I have a small collection of old rifles, I appreciate to drive old German sedans cars, and to rest with my 5 cats. I am not really interested in cinema or television. I like drinking everything, whether good wines or good beers, and especially to taste and savour delicious local products (cheeses, sausage, meats).
Alas, we reach the end of this interview. Once again, I would like to thank you very much for your time, patience and answers. I do appreciate them with great esteem. I would like to wish you the best in your personal and professional plans. I leave you with the last words to conclude this conversation.
Ardraos – Thanks for your questions and interest, I wish you the best too. Keep listening to Offertoire, stay tuned for the new Aorlhac album, and more to come in the next years for Sühnopfer & Peste Noire I hope!
October 18, 2016