Exclusive interview forr hellfest.fr : MASS HYSTERIA
“Come see us, we will have the biggest wall of death of the weekend !” – Mouss – Le Plan, Ris Orangis – 12/05/2015
Today we are the 5th of December. On this day in 1560 Charles IX took the French throne, it’s also the anniversary of Mozart’s death in 1791 and the birth of Walt Disney in 1901. In 1941 New York became the seat of the United Nations. We are 2015 – How will Mass Hysteria make its mark on history on December 5th 2015 ?
Mouss (vocals) : (laughs) First we are going to try to make a mark on our own history, our tiny history. We are not an international known band, if we were then maybe we could look at the bigger picture. As a French band we are trying to be a band who define the French scene and play concerts that are remarkable, and hopefully, legendary.
Fred (guitar) : It’s not defined by a date. For the record – Mass Hysteria has been doing this for 23 years. Me – I just joined. It’s a long procedure : in France it takes a while to get things moving. I have to ask if the band is in the process of doing something kind of special right now.
Mouss : We are making a mark on history after a fashion with our longevity. We are trying to create smart and well researched music. We are working hard but we try to stay modest and do our best to put out good albums with good art and great tours. Like Fred said – we’ve been doing this for 23 years maybe our longevity will allow us to mark history – I hope so at least !
Fred : It also leaves a mark by being something non traditionally. With the internet and whatnot there are all these bands that are trying to dominate the scene. It no longer works like it used to. Media outlets are no longer interested by bands that are only a part of the French scene. They need to do something more – so it’s step by step.
Mass : Gojira is a small exception – but they sing in English. If you want to play abroad I feel like it’s always better to sing in English, especially in the electro scene, just look at Daft Punk. But there are also bands that sing in French who manage to do some dates abroad like Smash Hit Combo. Us, we play out a little, it’s nice, but it takes longer.
Were you surprise, or even charmed by the positive critical reception of your latest album, Matière Noire ? It seems like reviews were unanimously positive ! What did you think ?
Mouss : Very much so ! It’s above and beyond what we could have hoped for. So yes. We felt it ot the core. You see – we had some really effective promo days and got to be on the cover of Rock Hard. We are the only French band, along with Gojira to be on the cover of Rock Hard. It’s not nothing ! Then we had The Album Of The Week on Canal+. Certain things mark you after all ! We’ve always done press for our albums, be it for national press or fanzines and webzines. But hre we felt like things were more positive than we have seen in years, the most positive since Contraddiction I think which came out back in 1999 y’know ? It’s awesome to be appreciated like this !
The cover of Rock Hard seems to be an important step – that issue had interviews with Scorpions and Def Leppard after all ! It would have been easy for them to get the cover. Why do you think you got it ? Was it due to the quality of the album ? Or an homage to your 23 years of doing this ? Fred : I think it was the combination of multiple factors. I think French media has an incentive to showcase French artists. Perhaps it’s a question of national pride to not just talk about America bands, and there aren’t a ton of French bands that play this style who aren’t old like we are ! Maybe everyone wants to contribute to the legend in their own way.
Mass : Both factors had an impact. The longevity and the quality of the album united making it a good time for Rock Hard to say, « Mass Hysteria would be a good fit. They are established, a constant and they have good albums ! » Maybe it’s because we’ve gotten better and better with our last four albums that we’ve done with Fred – we have returned to what we do best. It’s the road – songs made for a live setting and only for a live setting. Radios and TV’s we don’t give a fuck about it. But if they want to invite us or play our music, no worries ! (Laughter) We did not want to have to format our music and we don’t want to have to offer something that is only an imitation of reality. As is though the planets aligned with the press. After 23 years of existence it’s our turn with this new album, our eighth. For me 8 is a lucky number, it represents infinity. I like signs like this. It’s my mystical side. This is our eight album and there is a sense of infinity with this longevity. Media outlets are paying attention ! Like Fred said, there aren’t that many bands that have taken the time to grow and evolve in this style and we have proved that we are our thing, a remarkable entity. We have the history musically and we are really veterans of the scene !
Fred : This development came without looking to get the attention of the press. You do what you do in your corner, you play a concert or two, you capture people’s attention little by little and eventually you realize that you don’t need massive press. Then after you get there on your own they start to approach you ! It’s awesome to create something like this ! In another time it was the other way around : You had to find a big record label to sign you to get press attention. Now for several years we haven’t really cared about a label ! (Laughter) It’s awesome to be free like this – I have to ask if we aren’t creating something more…
Mouss : Real ? Authentic maybe ?
Fred : I think it’s a force that we are only just coming to terms with. We are good in our place, and you’re good in yours – people are realizing this.
This album, Matière Noire, have you had a chance to digest it ?
Mouss : Personally it took me a few days. We got to play a residency in Nany for a week at the venue L’Autre Canal to really get ready for the tour. We practiced, practiced, practiced. I still need sheets with my lyrics – it’s the first time this has happened to me. I still haven’t completely mastered them because there’s a lot of new stuff happening in my personal life. Once the first concerts happened I messed up some of the lyrics but it wasn’t too bad – I just have to work on memorizing the. Collectively though we quickly got the hang of this album. It all came together on November 13th 2015 wih the first show of tour, the same day of the event at Le Bataclan. We learned about it mid concert. We had just finished « L’Enfer des Dieux » on stage a song not based on reality, but it’s story played out as we performed it. The day after we were supposed to play Le Bikini in Toulouse but everything was messed up. We had to ask if we should even play the concert. It all became very real very quickly.
Fred : We didn’t expect to have to get used to playing it under those circumstances.
Mouss : We have songs that aren’t based off real events but take on a whole new meaning after. Even among older songs. We were tossed into the fire really quickly in regards to emotional reaction. Today with certain songs we realize they will follow us for a long time.
Fred : We still have a lot of dates so things can still evolve. We’re starting with just small club shows and eventually will tackle bigger festivals. We have to keep going though even if it does feel a little weird. People sense our dedication and I think the concerts now are crazier than ever. Something happened on that level.
Mouss : There’s a small seed of madness that didn’t exist before – a new dimension.
In regards to the setlist, lately you have had a tendency to focus on the last four records [Une Somme de Détails (2007), Failles (2009), L’Armée des Ombres (2012), Matière Noire (2015)], has playing older material become frustrating ?
Mouss : Yes and no. We still play music from our first two records but we play nothing from our third or fourth because they reflect a time when I think we were a little lost. We would play those songs if they were as good as the others. Now we try to meet what the fans want and what we want. Those two albums rarely get a positive response which confirms our sentiment so we don’t play them because we don’t feel like it, and the fans don’t want them.
Fred : It’s true that the band improved before things got weird. People don’t all agree though but I think that this strange step benefited the band. It helped our growth and it could have been worse, it gave us time to breath. The band got to regenerate and then raise the bar once more with its greatest successes to date.
Mouss : I agree 100% and I would add that with the release of the third album we were just a little to comfortable. But with the two following albums we were a lot less comfortable and so we felt obliged to make something much better. This is what happened with Une Somme de Détails the first record we did with Fred. With this type of music if you are to comfortable you can forget why you started doing this in the first place. Maybe I’m just psychoanalyzing ! (Laughter) But I think to make good rock you need to be a little pissed !
Mouss, if we take the time to read your thank you’s on the album booklet we see why we might need to worry about the future of the band. Is your future still tied into Mass Hysteria ?
Yes, yes, yes… I lost my parents during the creation of this album and that was a blow. I realized what I missed with them and all those years that were taken up by my work. I feel like I missed a lot in these last few years of my life. I have a lot of regrets in a 23 year career with eight albums. During the composition phase I found myself lagging behind. Normally I filled up folders with lyrics and then I try to filter them out to get the best. Here I didn’t get to do that… I didn’t feel right. Eventually the day came to enter the studio and I was rushing trying to put out the best lyrics I could. Then I had to go an sing them in a studio. I don’t really like being in the studio, but I end up figuring it out. You get it when you don’t have to think about it. But here with the loss of my parents things weighed on me. I felt tired and I thought of the time I wasn’t dedicating to my children. So I said « I am going to do this album then tour, and then take a break » I did think about stopping Mass Hysteria and giving time to my family and to engage in projects that my wife wanted – especially since she became her own boss. So I just want to take a break of 2 or 3 years. Psychologically I think I need it. I’m thinking of me, my family and our income. It’s something that I’ve only done intermittently and it needs to be taken to a new level. So I’m going to take a break after the tour. But things are only just beginning – it might be another few years before we back off !
Fred : It’s a legitimate question that we are all asking ourselves. When you are 44 and you play rock and roll you don’t know what tomorrow holds. So you have to develop a career alongside and dedicate some time to it, time that doesn’t go into the band. It’s hard to imagine getting old witha guitar in hand still playing metal. Maybe we will continue to play albums, it’s the fear of confronting reality that stops us from dedicating ourselves to this 100%. On a personal level I’m afraid of stopping music and then finding work at age 60.
So let’s talk about the 2016 edition of Hellfest – what interests you ?
Mouss : It’s amazing ! [Yann (guitar) enters the room] Hey Yann ! Come here, it’s for Hellfest ! For me, there’s Rammstein a band I have never seen live, and who I am super excited for. I have always wanted to see them but never really had the chance. The idea of playing on the same stage as them gives me goosebumps. There’s a lot of great bands, Strife for example – I have never seen them and I love them !
Yann : I’m more interested in the tents since in general I have seen the headliners 50 times ! I mean fine, I’m exagerating a little but still. For me I’m looking forward to Hangman’s Chair : they are friends of ours. Dopethrone : I love. Asphyx too. Once on the site I like to walk around and discover extreme metal acts. In general I take the schedule and try to take the time to see bands I don’t know. I discover stuff and if it pleases me I check them out live. There’s also Turnstile, Converge and Walls of Jericho – I love those bands !
Mouss : Anthrax, dammit ! I’m not even a huge fan, even if I really admire Scott Ian. I saw them a few weeks ago in Paris opening for Slayer and I was blown away. I hope they are as good at Hellfest. Gojira and No One Is Innocent are friends too !
Fred : And the last concert of Black Sabbath in France and I’m a Kvelertake fan.
Yann : Le Bal des Enragés, Terrorizer…
Mouss : Joe Satriani! Surfing With The Alien : what an album! Voivod, UK Subs, Toy Dolls: there are tons of awesome things ! Even Ratos de Porao, I thought they broke up ! They have Torche too ! I loved the presentation of Sick Of It All last time I saw them. I was blown away -those dudes are older than us but still fit and hardcore. Total respect. I’m not a huge Twisted Sister fan but I would love to see them !
Yann : I saw them at Heavy Montreal and was blown away. Musically it’s great and Dee Snider destroys the stage. Deicide will be awesome too !
I will let you wrap up…
Mouss : See you at Hellfest…
Yann : And support the French scene. Even if you come see us in concert you don’t understand how it is for bands like Lofofora, No One Is Innocent or Tagada Jones.
Mouss : And it’s just as hard for new bands !
Yann : The French scene has no reason to be jealous though – we have tons of great bands. Gojira is the best example : for me they are one of the best bands in the world.
Mouss : So see you at Hellfest and support the French scene ! Come see us, we will have the biggest wall of death of the weekend !
@La Plan, Ris Orangis – 12/05/2015
Many thanks to Roger (Replica) and John (tour manager)