Spike Mag (Czech Republic)
Answered by Chaoth
I suppose you are finally enjoying the moment when after five years a new record is finished and started to live its own life. Do you belong to those musicians whose heads are full of new ideas already or do you rather keep thinking about the “old” material and focus on its live presentation?
I would have to say BOTH. We are indeed extremely excited and proud of that record as it is, quite unanimously, the best piece of work we ever put out and after 2 years in the making (composing, recording, editing, artwork design, manufacturing and everything..) we are more than glad that it is now living on its own. Now, I wouldn’t call FOTSE’s material old, but we have been listening to it for 2 years so, yes, I am already excited for whatever while come next musically. It’s not like we have any plans of writing a new album anytime soon but, you never know. I know everybody in the band already has littles ideas of things they want to do and that will become the seeds of our next opus. I can only promise it won’t come out in 2016 so, don’t worry. I personally wish we could have been more prolific in our years as a band but it’s not easy when their is so much going on in our respective lives and, well, it also takes time to write this kind of music. Now for the live aspect, I would say that it is mainly what is in our heads right now. That will be our main focus for the coming year. We need to make the music alive and I can’t wait to hit the stage and start that new chapter.
Now… I’m personnally the ”new material” guy… Whenever we decide (read: argue) on a setlist for a show, I’m always the one pushing the newest and what I think is the most ”edgy” material we have because I want to be represented with that live and I want to try new things and then some of my bandmates want to stick with older material that we are more comfortable with so we always end up doing a bit of both and finding an in-between. That’s pretty much how it works for everything in the band actually. We are 6 strong willed person melodically fighting for their ideas and opinion and, even though it’s very heavy at times, it’s exactly what makes our music what it is. You can hear it in our cacophonous madness.
How do you perceive prejudices in music? So many people limit themselves with so many more or less stupid borders, which disable them to live a full life and they apply the same for music…
Well, in our world, people are only the result of what they have been exposed to, what they know, what they ”learned” from life (which is very sad because, truly, people are their souls more than anything else but most people will never know themselves through their lifetime, but… that is.. another subject).
For every musicians or artists, it is common knowledge that talent and success are, most of the time, not related at all. As a matter of fact, most of the time you might be more likely to be successful if your writing is more minimalistic and that your limited technical abilities make you turn toward something else like lyrics or songwriting and likewise you may never succeed because you are TOO talented and ahead of your time and that doesn’t apply just for music, it is in every art form and actually, every discipline even outside of arts. One of my personal favorite influence is Nikola Tesla… that sums it up pretty well. Now, I know what we created… I know what its worth and I am confident in my musical opinions so I am not very affected by negative criticism. Besides, negative criticism is rarely constructive. There is more haters than people who wants to discuss the music and its flaws in an intelligent way.
For composers of avant-garde music both unworldliness (not to be bound by conventions) and knowledge (to be able to direct the thoughts and ideas) are important. Do you think you have managed to handle these or do you still see limits here?
Well, I do think that this is our best attempt at handling these concepts the best we could but hopefully we’ll get better at it with the next releases. That’s the goal, to always evolve and explore. Now, I do see limits there in some way. I would like to deconstruct the music even more and get even more experimental and noisy and textural and so on, but doing it in a clever way where you can still see a conducting line and feel a ”song” as a whole. That is the ultimate challenge. Not only to push the music boundaries but to make proper songwriting out of it. How the hell do you do that ? I always said (and that is not gonna help my overall ”arrogant” feel on this interview .. hehe… sorry… I’m pationate…) that writing music, is like playing GOD. You start from scratch! From nothing! And you create something… THEREFORE, you DO NOT have to follow any rules of physics and you are inventing your world as you are creating it. Think outside of your instrument, think outside of the box. If you only play what you are comfortable with playing, well, it might end up sounding one-dimensional.
I have read at numerous places that apart from the qualities as musicians you take heed to the so-called “human” qualities. Does Unexpect also symbolize friendship? Do you believe that full mutual trust in the band can affect the music?
It certainly can. Only I have the feeling that in our particular situation, CHALLENGE more than TRUST is pushing the sound of the band. We fight for our respective ideas and we push each other as musicians as everybody writes for everybody. We all give ideas for example when we write the drum parts and it is very painful for Landryx but it is also what pushes him to play differently and try different things that he wouldn’t necessarily have come up with. Same thing for every instrument. Syriak used to give me blisters on my finger because he would sit with me showing me guitar parts and telling me to try this or this or this which was just orchestration ideas off of his head and not based at all on what I would or could do and that often gave very interesting results and contributed to the sound we have today. Same for Exod (he did compose the album with us even though he is not in the band now). He would come up with songs and we would learn it and make it ours. Now to go back on that, YES we obviously are long time friends and that is precious but I also like what the musical tensions between us can create in the end.
When you look at the contemporary metal scene, do you see references, ways of playing or interesting aspects that you think might be useful for Unexpect?
Oh absolutely. We are influences by many things but the contemporary metal scene is definitely one of them of course. Many people are in that mindset of pushing the limits so it is very interesting to see what is coming out every year. We wouldn’t be the band we are if it wasn’t from all the music we’ve been listening to in the last 15 years so…
When preparing for the interview, I was surprised to see how many of the avant-garde metal bands that are generally regarded as significant do not in fact exist anymore. Is the expected creativity, imaginativeness and existence beyond genres sometimes not too entangling for the experimental bands? Logically, even the expectations of people who are capable of grasping this kind of music are higher than with bands sticking strictly to one genre…
Well, that is the life of a band unfortunately. Most bands these days live for an average of maybe 8 years. The problem with music is that, musicians… unfortunately… need to eat food…. Indeed, they need to feed themselves and make a living. Have a roof, some cloths and maybe even a life so, most bands die because the ”game” of playing music, even if it really is what their souls are screaming for, becomes secondary to the other needs of life. We all know that there is no money to be made in that industry and it is extremely hard to keep doing it for years and years and years so, avant-garde metal or punk or whatever, being in a band is hard, period. Interesting fact is, if we would be just another death-metal or metalcore band sounding like everybody else, I probably would’ve left the band some years ago now but I stick with it because I know that we have something that is somehow very valuable to my eyes and I am happy to make the music that we make because it is refreshing for my ears too. It’s amazing to be able to write music that you never heard before and put an album out that is somewhere in between of these many influences you have. It is a great mathematical equation.
With a bit of humour, we might say that for the occasional listener, avant-garde metal is a protein purée with a bit of symphony, jazz, electronic music and progression. But what about you as artists – what does avant-garde mean, apart from the freedom and borderless fantasy?
Well the expression ”avant-garde” itself in rather new in the metal community I feel. You never used to hear that only some years ago and it’s an expression that have been sticking to our band more and more and I don’t know that it is still the kind of music that we play. Music, obviously, can’t be labeled. When you talk about a good wine… you don’t just go… ”This wine is *****” and describe it in one word, that is impossible. You need to discuss all the flavors and subtleties and then MAYBE you’ll have an idea of what it is because in the end, again, obviously, the music talks for itself. I’ve read a quote from a Jazzman that was quite interesting and that nailed it down pretty good. It was saying: ”Writing about music, is like dancing on architecture…” ….. I’ll leave it at that…
Now we are finally getting to the new album. Your lyrics are definitely not short of imaginativeness, but could you sum up the main thoughts and motives, that cement all the dreamless stories?
That is the thing… Nothing specific will sum up the topics of these lyrics and that was the very reason why finding a unifying name and concept for the album was so hard. It’s like different stories that go from a strong social criticism camouflaged in a fantastic fashion to a love story between 2 living dead entities and then to a reflection on life in the universe and exo-politics and its implications so… as wide as the spectrum was, there was not necessarily a directive line here. Then came Syriak and he very ably made a ”story book” out of it by bringing the concept of FABLES. It’s just like a book with different stories that have different morals or ideas. It also needed to reach the level of epicness of the song FABLES OF THE SLEEPLESS EMPIRE…
Frederick has created a booklet for the new album, but the central motive of the cover was done by Mario Sanchez Nevado. What exactly did you want to capture?
The graphic designer name is actually ERIC and, he did an amazing job, we are all thankful for that. Basically we found this great artwork from Mario Sanchez after scanning the internet and art magazines for hours and days and we decided on one. Then Eric came in and unified the artwork with the concept of the album making us visually all part of the Fables. And Voilà! You have an album.
It seems to me that „Fables of the Sleepless Empire“ is an album more than ever stressing the atmosphere, which in my eyes makes it unusually open. Did you aim at pushing the playfulness and rampancy towards a bigger empathy?
I always do that in every interview at least once. Sometimes either by lazyness or tiredness or struggle to answer or to get the point of the question or just for the fact that I think its fun and I should do as I please… but yeah… in every interview I use that ”carte blanche” and completely miss the point of a question to talk about whatever else. I don’t think the moon is what we think it is…. Never notice that it violates the laws of physics and that it is the only body in our solar system that ”behaves” like that ? We only see 1 side… all the time. The face of the moon is PERFECTLY synced with its revolution around the earth. I find that very peculiar. Every other body rotates on themselves as they are revolving around their ”parent” body. Obviously, I could go on and blabber about all that and my theories for an hour but I couldn’t prove anything… but isn’t it better to at least discuss it and ask the question than to just accept the OH-SO-OBVIOUS ? … and now… to the next question…
There are also fewer obvious experiments with electronic music present (as represented by „Silence 011010701“ on your previous album). Didn´t you feel the need or are you now moving in different musical spheres?
This album is only what we created at that period in time. I don’t think it symbolizes the sound or the direction UNEXPECT is taking. Our next album might be all electronic for all I know, you never know. I can only talk about it objectively when I step out of it and look at the final results like anybody would do. What I can say is that it has been used more as an instrument and it taking its completing the music. The research was probably more on sounds and samples and tones themselves than in musical pieces.
Could you imagine a full shift away from metal? Or is heavy music a necessary cornerstone that enables you to experiment more comfortably?
I certainly wouldn’t mind going down on my needs and turning some knobs for half of our sets and experimenting with noise and loops and I’m not saying that we wont go this way in some aspects but, again, different people are pulling in different directions so, we will always have all the styles of music that we used. I don’t think you could see a 100% shift to something else but rather an evolution in different avenues. And besides, we all have a deep love for the strong and particular flavor of metal music.
Not that it would be necessary, but have you ever felt the urge to invite kindred spirits, guests on your album?
That has been in the air… just never took action. Very possible in the future, I would love to see what the results could be.
If I am not mistaken, you don´t have an official music video. Do you think it is difficult to visually accompany and creatively accentuate the avantgarde? I think the open possibilities are a challenge for peculiar artists, even more so when your music can be likened to Alice in Wonderland. How about asking Tim Burton what he is doing next Friday afternoon?
We will officially have a video out in 2011 so… yes, that is a first. Tim Burton ? Why not… but it’s most likely that we would go in the opposite direction and do something that somehow beautifully clashes with the music instead of making something too complementary. But again… yeah, it would be awesome of course
By the way – what about you and cinema? Any particular relationship, favourite topics, artists? One string opening on „In a Flesh Aquarium“ reminded me of the classic motive from Hitchcock´s “Psycho”…
Cinema is a big part of our influences I guess as it is such a complete and complex form of art. I love everything…
Let´s finalize with concerts – last year Diablo Swing Orchestra and Sigh entertained the visitors at Brutal Assault festival, Sebkha-Chott were there at 2008, Ephel Death attended twice this year you and Ram-Zet are scheduled… And it seems that the Josefov fortress likes the avantgarde. Are you looking forward to coming? What to expect?
This is definitely a show that we are looking forward to. I don’t know what we can expect and I don’t know what people can expect of us. Sure thing is… we don’t like to go unnoticed. We will actually live on the festival for the 3 days (we are playing on the 11th) so we’re also looking forward to seeing many other acts. Come see us… we’re nice people. Life is good…