Saturday, May 22, 2010

Interview: Celestia

Well, first off...let's start in the traditional way here by introducing the bands, it's members, and the music that you play. Who is involved in Celestia at the present time, and what other groups or projects have they been a part of? How long has Celestia been together in its current incarnation?

Celestia was created in 1995 by myself, I started this project alone. Fureiss offered his contribution in early 1998 and he is now a full permanent member since more than 3 years now. We recorded together a couple of demo tapes and later a MCD called 'A Cave Full of Bats'. Soon after we decided to start to make some concerts and we recuited two other members. TND and a human machine on drums. We offered to TND to take the bass parts instead of me and he accepted our offer. I wanted to focus myself on my voice and on the lyrical part of the project. Each of us are or were involved in various projects but I think that we can say that CELESTIA is our most important band compared to other projects.
When it comes to music, I think that we always played a very personal interpretation of that people call Black Metal. But our music go far beyond this label.

You label yourselves as 'fast, ethereal' black metal, can you tell us exactly what you mean by this - I mean the 'ethereal' part? Are there any overriding themes in your music or lyrical subjects that you always find yourselves returning to? Why did you form the group and what are your goals - both in terms of the music itself, what you are working towards stylistically and compositionally, and in terms of your ambitions in the scene? How would you like people to remember Celestia when everything is done and over with?

Well, it was a way to label our music when we recorded our promo tape, Awakening of the Dormant Fiancee. The music is fast and I think that the music has this 'ethereal' touch ; musically and lyrically speaking Celestia has a strong link with the ethereal world. We live ourself in a kind of ethereal world, between our world and the human one. Our music can be transparent and at the same time impenetrable. Celestia's music has no limits on its evolution and we are not trapped into the cliches of the genre. We are not afraid to speak about personal feelings that no one wants to talk [about] in this scene. I must admit that our concept can be considered like something too much personal and I will easily agree with this. We don't create music for others but only for ourselves. If the masses don't like our music, it's their problem, not mine. The same problems appear also when we play on stage, peoples are destabilized coz they aren't able to put a style on us. We are not a copy of their idols so most of the time, most of them aren't able to give an opinion on Celestia. Only mature persons are able to understand our whole concept. The rest... Hehe We don't care in fact.

I know that Noctu, for example, definitely has a strong position in the French metal scene because of his work with the Drakkar label - do you think of yourselves (because of your outside interests and activities as well) as somehow a band that 'leads' in some sense what is going on right now in the French underground, or is Celestia more of a 'project' with which to express sensibilities or create art that wouldn't normally fit in with the 'normal' black metal bands? How has the existence of the Drakkar label helped with establishing or maintaining the position of Celestia? Do you find that Drakkar draws a lot of attention to Celestia, or vice versa?

That's right, I'm working for Drakkar Productions. And I can't deny that Drakkar Productions has given us lot of support in the past. They released a couple of demo tapes and our debut MCD. Actually, Celestia is an unsigned band. We are still looking for the suitable label for us. We've got good offers from various labels but nothing is signed yet. As for myself I would prefer to release our album on one another label than Drakkar Productions. Mostly for personal reasons but also to deliver me from some work. My mind would be more free if I can put a barrier between my two activities. Celestia is without doubt more than a project for us, it's a part of our life, a need to express our deep feelings towards music and lyrics. It has nothing to do with our other jobs, me and Fureiss are both involved with jobs related with music but Celestia has no influences in our other activities.

Tell me a little about the current bands in the French underground...who should people outside of your country listen to, and why? What bands are really worth paying attention to? Are there any bands that you work alongside that you look up to as carriers of the 'true black metal spirit' - bands that refuse to compromise and that are completely committed to dark underground art? Are there any bands that you would like to abuse here, publically, groups that you feel have betrayed the way of uncommercial, pure, expressive art? Why are you (Celestia, Drakkar) so intent on the 'underground' aspect of black metal that you advertise/propogandize, and what do you most enjoy about music that shuns the light or any kind of commercialism, music that really only has a firm commitment to its creators?

We have good and bad bands here, I think that it's almost the same situation everywhere. In fact I don't care about what the people listen to the most, I think that most of them listen to the things that they see in the press. Some bands who really deserve attention, it's difficult because you can't be totally sure of the persons but musically, I think that Malicious Secrets, Nuit Noire or Vermeth are bands who really deserve special attention. [Malicious Secrets especially - Ed]
But I don't give too much attention to these bands. Most of them want to have a career on a major label to make tours and stuffs like this. I don't think that Celestia will enter one day [into] this circle. (Albums, Tours...) All this pseudo rock star attitude. No, sincerely it's not for us. We have stopped to perform concerts actually, it was a kind of disgust to this immature audience. We prefer to stay far away from this system. That doesn't mean that we will never perform any concerts. I think that if one day we make another show, it will be in perfect conditions with bands that we personally have some affinities with.

How has the increasing difficulty with which the Norwegians or other Scandinavian bands have been approaching their own legacy over the last few years affected the French scene - I mean, have any of the so-called 'innovations' of these old black metal bands really had any kind of impact in France? It seems to me that the French bands have always taken ideas mainly from Darkthrone and very early Mayhem, and really haven't looked back since then...because of this their sound is something special in the world scene today, pointing back to another time...your comments? Do you think there is room for progression in black metal, or is there a certain path of expression that should always be followed?

I think that the charismatic aura of the Norwegian scene from the beginning of the 90's has give a certain impact in many peoples. I personally really enjoyed this Norwegian scene until 1995, before its humanization, now the Norwegian scene is definitively dead, you just have to go to a false Mayhem concert and see who is in front of them, brainless kids who are listening to metal since less than one year wearing the T-shirt of the last album of one of these black metal heroes. I must say that I feel a strong disgust towards this. For me, it has nothing to do with the beauty and intelligence of Black Metal. Black Metal is supposed to be something innaccessible for the human filth, something superior and not linked with the other sub-metal genres. It's only my opinion and people seem to not think the same ideas as me. Now, Black Metal has this vulgar touch which is really disgusting, this is total nonsense, you see bands signing in any kind of sub-metal label just to gain more popularity. But they don't know that with signing with these labels, they kill themselves. The Black Metal movement is dead now and the people who compose it now are only beer drinkers without any philosophies about our dark kult.
Yes, the French sound has something special, a certain touch of amateurism. But it's pleasant to listen to, I like this pure sound, it's a part of Black Metal. I like [a] cold sound and I don't like the powerfull hard core or metal sound. I hate the bands who want to sound 'as powerful as possible', the more metal. Black metal and [traditional] metal is something really different for me.

In addition to this, I've noticed as well that the French bands that I have listened closely to (by this I mean mainly Mutiilation, Vlad Tepes, Antaeus, and now Celestia, Malicious Secrets, Hawkmoon, etc. on the tape that you sent me) have a certain originality that never escapes the music, and whenever I listen to bands from the French underground my imagination is stirred trying to recognize and locate all these interesting references that come to me through the melodies - it seems that the French bands, no matter what genre or subgenre of black metal they feel they belong to, always try to bring all of their passion and heartfelt enthusiasm for art into the music, sounding in many places like the music was really all they had in life, and they were taking every single aspect of it to extremes in order to reach a crisis point, a mindset and ritual trance that would allow them to transcend their 'normal lives'. What is so bad about life in France that it makes sensitive people (especially musicians) react to it in this way? Why are all French black metal bands so overwhelmingly extreme, so committed, so passionate about their work?

I will only speak for myself in this answer but I don't think that I am able to explain the feelings which burn in the others. I can admit that the French scene can have a certain source of interests compared to the other scenes. I think that the French scene has its own identity. As for Celestia, I think that I am right to say that our deep inspiration comes from the bottom of ourselves. I can't deny that we must unconsciously be influenced by our past culture and literature. But we don't want to associate ourselves with any kind of artistic movement or scene. Celestia is without doubt outside all this stereotyped nominations and subgenres of music in the Black Metal scene. I don't think that we can even consider Celestia as a Black Metal band. The name of Black Metal means something so unsignificant for me today.

Another thing about the French bands that has always bothered me is the complete absence of any real press (amateur or otherwise) coverage of your country's underground...this seems to slowly be starting to turn the other way, but why do you think the French underground has been ignored for so long? Over the last decade there have been amazing, powerful bands from your country, and yet almost none of them have been given a chance to either have their say in the world press or let people outside of France know about them so that they could be given support from fans outside the you really see this starting to change, or do you still think French bands are neglected? If so, why? Has the increasing prominence of Antaeus, for example, helped in any way with this?

I think that the French underground scene was always boycotted coz of its lack of credibility compared to the others country like Scandinavia. The lack of credibility can be also linked with the word 'amateurism'. So the record companies always boycotted this scene coz of this fact. And I must say that I totally agreed with them on this point. Now it seems that some labels have started to open their eyes to this scene and you can even see some bands signed with big labels. Celestia even got the interest of foreign labels but in case we sign with one of them, we will carefully choose with who. We don't want to be associated with a 'funny' metal label. The choice of the label is something really important for us.
When it comes to the press, it's true that in this case the boycott is present more than ever. You will never see an interview with a french band in Terrorizer mag(UK) for example. Why ? I don't know...they probably hate us because some people here eat frogs. I don't know, to be honest, and I also don't care.
As for the 'humanization' of Antaeus, I see that like a vulgar insult and humiliation for their scene. This band always suffered from a lack of credibility in the past, now, it seems that the trend has won over their uncredibility. Sincerely, I don't consider this band [to be] a part of Black Metal. In fact I hate grind core...

It might be a good time to ask you about is it going with the label these days, and what do you have planned for the future? Did the recent 'crackdown' by the police on End All Life productions (supposedly because of a black metal enthusiast's suicide) affect you in any way? How do 'normal' people in France, for the most part, react to or view those of us who are only into the darkest of music - how is the black metal underground truly perceived? What would you like to see changed in the way underground music is seen in your country?

Drakkar Productions is developing in a good direction. We have more and more bands signed and we still have the same identity we had in the beginning of the label. I think that all our bands have this 'Drakkar touch'. People who know the label releases very well will understand what I mean. Now, I think that Drakkar Productions has reached a kind of respectable status in the underground scene. And I hope that we continue in this direction.
The Police made some investigations into the underground scene a few months ago. They arrested the guys from Chanteloup Creations and they stopped their activities coz of this. EAL is an official structure so they can create them any problems. It's sure that the police don't like all the things related to Black Metal. I can understand them, when teenagers desecrate graveyards... They think that they are fighting Christianity with such acts. For myself, I just think that they fight and destroy the true noble essence of Black Metal. Today the Black Metal scene is spread everywhere and even underground bands sign deals with humanists labels. It's for this reason that the true spirit of Black metal was damaged and mostly destroyed nowadays...some ignorant bastards who spread a wrong interpretation of Black Metal to the masses. As for Celestia, we stand for the old values of this defunct genre, we are against all forms of metal, you can even consider us as an anti-metal band. Metal is something full of vulgarity, Celestia is the contrary of this. I think that we can consider ourselves like a band who follow the old principles of the Black metal from the beginning of the 90's. Celestia is something cold, beautiful, sumptuous, dead, sick, perverse... All the contrary of this 'life metal' of today.
I don't want to change anything in the scene...even if I think that Celestia is something that shows a huge difference in this scene. But, it's true that sometimes, we feel ourselves alone, we don't have any creatures who have the same sensibility as us. In our local scene, people hate Celestia like people used to hate Pest [rats, plagues? -Ed] in the middle ages. They see us as sick rats spreading an old ancient disease. They are right, we are so different from them. Just one word for them: continue to hate us but never try to imitate us or to approach us.

Alright, back to of the things that I commented on when I was reviewing your 'The Awakening of the Dormant Fiancee' promo was the eerie, otherworldly guitar sound that you use, which concentrates mainly on a high, treble series of tones, and seems to only pace through the middle range of E and A string power chords, never falling to the heaviness of the lower registers or ascending to the higher strings - how does this reflect the ideas and concepts behind the music, and is it something you found by accident, searching for a sound that you instinctively felt matched your aspirations, or was it something deliberately planned out, as if saying 'we are only going to use these tones, these chords, this range of musical ideas'? Was it theory or accident?

Your qualification of our music is brillant. You have understand that the sound of Celestia is something really unique. Are you able to compare us with another band when it comes to the sound? [No! - Ed] I'm afraid I'm not. This way how our songs sound is something particular which is emerging from the bottom of us. Each riff and each tone has this Celestia touch, a morbid melancholy. In fact I don't think that we try to search for a typical kind of sound. The sound of Celestia was always here, it's not a sound that descends from the typical metal roots. No, it's our own sound. It's not a theory nor an accident either, it's something natural.

I noticed that you have released a few recording on vinyl now...are there any more EPs or 7 inches planned? How difficult is it for you to plan and/or carry out these small EPs and split releases? How expensive is it? Are there other bands that you would like to appear with on similar recordings? What do you think is the exact appeal of vinyl at this point? Is it only for the serious collector, or the underground fanatic - especially since so many bands later rerelease their 7 inches on CD?

Yes, we released two split EP's recently. We love vinyl and soon a full LP called 'Crucified Dead Flesh' will see the light, also a new full EP with two new songs and our debut album will also be released on LP format. Making a vinyl release cost more money than a CD release today, but money is just a detail. The most important [thing] is to have this piece of vinyl in your hands. I myself collect vinyl and it's something really appreciable to release our own projects on vinyl. I don't see any bands for future split recordings, we already made 4 split releases with Draugwath - now 'BlackDeath'(Rus), Evil(Bra), GoatFire(Ita) and Inferno(Rep Tch). Sincerely I can't see any bands for a future split release. But I'm really open to do split releases. Only if we sincerly appreciate all the bands, of course. It's true that unfortunately many bands release their old 7''inch records on CD. But I prefer to have the old first version than the re-released trendy one.

Were there any particular inspirations for type of music you play - not only for the guitar sound but for the entire stylistic change Celestia seems to want to evoke? Would you like to add any other elements into your sound, or expand the reach and range of your music? You recently told me that the newest material you have written is really far beyond the music on 'The Awakening of the Dormant Fiancee' - what do you mean by this? How has Celestia changed over the last year? What can fans of your music look forward to with your next release?

Particular inspirations... Yes, these particular inspirations come from the bottom of ourselves, I don't think that we are directly inspired by any bands. Our music is composed in the most sincere way and if in the future we feel this need to add some new elements in our music, we will do it, we are not prisoners in the Black metal genre. Actually, I'm very satisfied with the new material, I will send you a tape soon and you will be able to have your own opinion. The Awakening promo tape is not our best release, I really prefer the debut MCD personally but I'm sure that our new releases will be thousand times better than this and I guess that it's normal to evolve in the direction that you think good. Celestia haven't changed, we have just evolved, we have realized that it was better for us to come back to the original form, a duo so we invited TND to leave the project and I have recorded myself the bass lines in the new recordings. People can start to be prepared to see the real face of Celestia really soon. We will show this pathetic French scene that we are really different from them.

Please add anything extra here that you would like our readers to can people contact you?

First of all, I would like to sincerely thank you for offering us the opportunity to answer your really interesting questions. It was really a pleasure for me to answer this interview. People interested in Celestia can visit our web page.