Greetings there! Thank you very much for answering this interview. I am eagerly waiting to read your answers. Please, introduce yourself to our readers.
Stéphane L.: The band is born back in 1994 and so far, we’ve released 6 albums, the new one is called Hyperion and is released through Debemur Morti. After a lot of line-up changes, the band is made today of Marc (guitar, vocals, electronics), Alain (drums), Luz (bass) and myself Stéphane (guitar, vocals, electronics).
After three years you’re about to release a new album named Hyperion. I’ve read very positive reviews about it and I’m pretty sure it will be a success. Please, musically speaking, tell us a bit about this album.
SL: With Hyperion we followed the path that started with our previous album Elysian Magnetic Fields : shortest tracks, melodies, atmospheres etc. But we took these elements further, in many different directions. We didn’t want to make a copycat of EMF (we hate repeating ourself), we simply kept the very essence of it and turn it into what is Hyperion today. Something following the same Dirge’s thread but with a different approach, new experiments… But to be honnest, it is quite hard for us to dig the «identity» of such a fresh recording. I prefer people to listen. Words are useless.
I’d like you to point out how different is, or isn’t, Hyperion comparing to Elysian Magnetic Fields and Wings of Lead over Dormant Seas, two albums that, in my humble opinion, are absolutely brilliant.
SL : Thank you. As I told you, Hyperion has pretty much the same dynamics as Elysian Magnetic Fields despite both albums sounds different and don’t aim towards the same direction. Of course Wings Of Lead… get away from them ; it was a different period where we wanted to push back our own creative boundaries again and again. It was a time where we were only able to express ourself through very long and monolithic compositions, with slow evolutions of riffs, different layers, progressive atmospheres, wide ranges of noise. It was a time for experiments and improvisations during the rehearsals. We wanted to do this, simply because we needed to feel the music this way. And none were doing it back then, so we did it. But as our music is always in motion we felt the need, after this record, to change our way to imagine the music. That led to EMF then Hyperion.
How important are the lyrics for Dirge? And what do they mostly deal with? Still on Hyperion, did the band follow the same path on the lyrics? Also, as far as I can remember now, apart from some song titles, I don’t think you’ve written lyrics in French. Is it something that you have in mind for the future?
SL : No I won’t write in french, simply because I don’t know how. Except for the title tracks, french is quite difficult to put within that kind of music and it often sounds not really good. For sure it’s a beautiful language but who rarely fits with rock music. French language suits far better with what we call here “chanson française”, authors/singers like Serge Gainsbourg, Léo Ferré or Jacques Brel are pure genius in this genre. But to me, english is the real tongue of rock music ; even the most stupid bullshits sound good this way, simply because english rocks by nature ! But still, I’ve put one french sentence in the middle of the “Hyperion Under Glass” lyrics and I think it sounds good. So perhaps I’ll do the same on the next album, as mixing languages can be an interesting approach. But to answer your first questions, yes lyrics are really important in Dirge, despite they always come once the track is finished. They basically always deal with the same kind of ideas and subject : absence, void, hope, space, contemplation, time passing…
Dirge started out as an industrial metal band, but, evolved more into an atmospheric/ post/ sludge/ doom style within the years (your music can’t really be labeled). Was something that happened naturally or did you “just” decided to change the music sound?
SL : Everything we’ve done during these 20 years occurred naturally. We never told us “let’s do this like that” or “let’s sound heavier or darker” etc. Fashions come and go and we never asked ourself if it would be “cool” to sound more black metal, shoegaze, funeral doom or whatever. We don’t care, we just follow our own thread.
We see in France many metal bands becoming more and more recognized around the world. France has always had a very strong metal scene, but it seems like there’s more attention to this nation now. Do you agree with that? How do you feel that is the French metal scene nowadays?
SL : I don’t think France always had a strong metal scene. We had some few interesting death metal stuffs late 80’s/early 90’s like Massacra, Loudblast or Proton Burst, but apart Gojira today, I don’t see any “big” metal band coming from France these last years. But if you look deeper down the underground today, I agree with you. A lot of original music surfaced from this country these 15 last years (Year Of No Light, Monarch!, Neige Morte, P.H.O.B.O.S., Aluk Todolo…) and a lot of these bands have pierced our frontiers and are now recognized abroad. I think mostly about Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega or Alcest. Actually, I think, we french bands, are pretty good when we don’t try to copy US/UK bands.That’s why you have now so many bands coming from here, who play that kind of deviant/avant-garde metal music.
You’ve been creating music for many years. Do you feel that you reached the goals you’ve set for your musical dreams?
SL : Perfection doesn’t exist. But for every new album, there are goals that we have the chance to reach, always. If it wouldn’t be the case, I think we would be still I the studio, trying to touch them and maybe these records wouldn’t have been released. You know, we can’t finish an album and think “OK, it’s not what we wanted to achieve, but let’s be satisfied with what we’ve got”, no it is not possible for us. This wouldn’t be enough, we have to think bigger ! This doesn’t mean that we are fully happy today with some of our older stuffs, as our look has changed with the years ; there are some things, some mixing choices, some lyric parts etc, that we would do differently today. But it’s logical to think different according to the years, due to our own evolution, new inspirations etc. For exemple, when we released And Shall The Sky Descend in 2004, we were totally happy and proud with it because, this record was how we wanted it to be, THEN. But we could not record this album today anymore.
And also, what makes you go on and create music after all these years?
SL : As long as we’ll have new things to express and try, as long as we’ll feel this need to create and that this need remain relevant, we’ll go on.
And what are the main plains for Dirge after the release of Hyperion? Any touring plans that you’d like to share with us?
We have done a small tour in Europe in May (Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Belgium) with Obscure Sphinx and I’m trying to set up another tour for this autumn, mainly in Germany. Some gigs may be shared with Obscure Sphinx again, I hope so. But no recording plans in mind for now.
Now some questions about you. Something that I like getting to know is how you got into metal, what were the main bands that have influenced you as well as when and why you decided to become a musician.
SL : Actually only Marc (the other guitarist/singer and founding member of Dirge) and I are into metal. I know that Marc started playing music in a death metal band called Bloodshed in the early 90’s. He was then very fan of trash stuffs like Voïvod, Dark Angel, Slayer. Then he discovered industrial metal bands from Earache like Godflesh, Pitchschifter, Fudge Tunnel, Scorn. This new mix between heavy guitars and machines pushed him to create Dirge. Today he still like listening bands like Napalm Death, Crowbar, Carcass or early Entombed but he’s rather into different genres like electronica, ambient or industrial music. Talking to me I first spring into metal with classical bands like Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, Obituary, Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death or all the doom/gothic wave with Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Tiamat, The Gathering etc. I still listen to metal today (among many other musical genres like post-punk, new wave, industrial, electro etc…), basically the same as before with some more black metal elements like Emperor or the new avant-garde BM wave of Blut Aus Nord, Wolves In The Throne Room etc. I’m still curious even though I’ve less time to discover new or old bands. But you know no metal bands pushed be to become a musician. I firstly was and still am a great fan of The Cure’s Robert Smith and I think he’s the one who gave me the will/need to become a musician.
Your opinion on illegal downloads. Still a problem for the bands or you don’t see it as a problem? What are your views and thoughts concerning this? And for labels; has your label manager talked to you about this?
SL : We never spoke about this matter with the label. The main problem with illegal download is that it allows people to get tons and tons of music very easily and quickly. So they have a huge amount of datas on their hard drives and therefore they often simply don’t have the time to listen properly the albums and dig them. This gives a “truncated” vision of an album and most of the time, people remain on their first opinion ; and I think it’s not fair for the artists. Their work don’t get any “second chance”, especially for the kind of music we play, which requires attention and patience because there are no catchy pop tunes. So it firstly pisses me of because of this. It is a lazy way to discover music. But in another hand, people who listen to the music we play are generally pationnate ones and support the artists, buy the CDs or LPs. The financial loss of illegal download is of course upsetting, but what can we do ? Every artists suffers from this forward motion of our modern world. We have to trust people.
And, like I always do on my interviews (and obviously many other interviewers as well), share with us your main interests and passions outside the metal world? What do you enjoy doing to relax, your hobbies (if any), anything you’d like to tell us.
SL: I only can speak for myself so I will answer you football, cinema, TV, videogames, travels… But I know I should read much more !
Alas we reach the end of this interview; or fortunately, as it’s all a matter of perspective. I’d like to thank you very much again for taking your time to answer this interview. I wish you and the band the best in the future. Any last words for our readers that you’d like to share?
SL: Thank you for your support!June 1, 2014