Exclusive interview – hellfest.fr : BETRAYING THE MARTYRS [Lucas D’Angelo (guitar), Baptiste Vigier (guitar) and Boris Le Gal (drums)]
“I never thought it would happen that I could play on the main stage with these guys. It will be the best show of the year for me. We will really deliver, if you want to see a BTM show it’s this one!”
Boris Le Gal – Paris – January 13th, 2017
Your new album The Resilient has been ready for several months and is almost ready to drop, you’re full on in the promo cycle. How do you feel today? Anxious, annoyed, excited?
Baptiste: I’m mostly excited!
Lucas: I’m excited for people to hear this album, we’ve worked our fingers to the bone creating it for a year and half, two years. We just want to hear the reactions of the fans. We want to share with them the music we have created.
Boris: With the fans it’s sort of the final judgement. There’s our point of view, that of our friends, the media, and the labels, but what really counts is the reactions of the fans. Me, I’m just a little anxious, even if I’m always hoping for the best.
Baptiste: For me it’s really just excitement because we finished recording last March and the album is only just coming out now in January. There are only a few more days we have to wait.
Your press release mentioned the joy and pride you have regarding this new record I clearly see that you’re happy to finally get it out, but why the sense of pride?
Lucas: We’re proud because we think That we’ve put together a disc that from the get go is the best that the band could possibly do. Evidently we hope that the next one will be still better. Right now though we’ve given all that we can and worked as much as we could on each piece and are 100% satisfied.
Boris: In fact, we are trying to learn from our mistakes and take apart songs from previous albums, analysing what we dig and what we don’t like anymore, be that on our end or from the fan perspective, we tried our best to listen.
Baptiste: We took into account a lot of criticisms and we really want to create songs with real structures: to leave space for guitar sounds or a more developed vocal part for example. We wanted to be more concise but also more listenable, groovier. That was the spirit of the composition.
Lucas: We are a band who tour a lot. So we wanted to take some time off 6 months to a year. We knew that we worked on each and every detail, nothing was left to chance. Every note, every lyric, every break in the drums : all of it was planned out. So we are excited for the new album to come out to hear the opinions of all concerned.
Your press release mentioned a lot of weaknesses and threats as well as knowing how to reflect back. Was it more important on this record for you to involve these aspects?
Lucas: Of course! I think that people who think that everything is perfect on their end are screwing up. It’s a proof of the maturity of the band, even if it’s a little cliché to say that. Despite everything I think that it’s a proof of maturity to be able to accept and say if certain things could be better done. It’s better to not resign yourself to your threats and to learn from your mistakes in order to get better. We’ve always functioned in this way. We’ve learned from past mistakes and it was, above all a guiding factor in the composition of this album and we came out on top. So we are proud.
You also spoke about meeting goals in your press release, what was your goal?
Boris: Our objective is to tour across the whole globe! That’s what we’re working on!
Lucas: We want to do a maximum number of concerts for the maximum number of people. To go everywhere: the USA, Australia, Japan, China and South America. We want to really get into new territories.
Baptiste: And by the same notion: continue to provide a larger and better stage show.
Lucas: Obviously if we make metal it’s to be able to play a huge show at a festival with pyro in every sense, but for that we need to increase the level of the band. So we have two goals, to travel more and deliver a bigger show.
The album is called The Resilient. Who is resilient?
Lucas: It’s sort of all of us. It’s the person who takes hits who deals with threats and comes out stronger than ever.
Boris: Someone who doesn’t rest on his laurels. We take hits and get setback but we pick ourselves up and continue on. We continue to advance and we take people with us for the ride.
Did that just materialise as a core concept for this record?
Lucas: I wouldn’t say that this is a concept record because each album has a unique theme and vibe. However once the album was completed we realized that there was a thread through all of it. We didn’t start with a core concept but every song has a concept in and of itself. The thread translated into the title of the album.
Artistically, was there a general idea guiding the composition ?
Lucas: We wanted to make our music more fluid, to make it more effective. We wanted to create real songs rather than throwing together elements we thought we were cool. We wanted it to have direction.
Baptiste: We often used to overload our music with too many elements stacked on top of each other.
Lucas: We were definitely a little too over the top in the past. Now we tried to let things breathe so that individual elements could come out more. For example, the orchestrations really come out on this record even though there are three times fewer than on the previous album. However when they come in they really dominate the whole thing. It’s the same with the drums, if there’s a more complicated part it shines and comes out on another level. It really feels three dimensional.
When I listened to the record last night it felt a little ambivalent, it seemed stripped down but also richer….
Lucas: That’s exactly it ! That’s what we were trying to do. It makes me happy to hear that.
The track “Won’t Back Down” recalls the painful events of November 13th 2015. Does your approach on stage feel different since then ?
Lucas: I felt a certain weight when we went on stage to play that song for the first time in Auxerre two weeks ago. But I think that the sense is not constantly present when we go on stage.
Baptiste: I’d argue that rooms still aren’t as full as they used to be. People are still a little nervours or afraid. Ticket sales are a little down, as a musician you note these things. You have to fight it, you can’t always live in fear. You can’t just stay at home, you need to get out, talk to people and fight the fear. It’s a little sad that this situation is especially notable in France but it’s also normal.
Boris: In the days after the attack at the Bataclan we really wanted to do something. As artists it made sense to do a song about it.
Lucas: And it perfectly fits into the thread of The Resilient.
Another question relative to the album : the recourse to an outside producer. Was there a strong desire to have one for The Resilient ?
Lucas: Completely. Previous times we recorded ourselves one little bit at a time, after work and stuff. Here we decided to take time off and to work hard on the pre-production. We recorded the album once as a sort of demo and used that as a mock up. So we had to be less worried initially if everything was perfect. The pieces were half finished. Once the mock ups were finished we spent two weeks rehearsing to practice playing them live and really get a feel before going back to the studio with a few corrections, some drastic ones too. For example with the song “Take Me Back”. Once this phase of pre-production and rehearsal was done we were able to record it. We locked ourselves up with a producer as an outside ear to add some more elements. We left for England for a month to record with Justin Hill the old singer of SikTh and he did a great job! He was very open and gave us a lot of good ideas and he was excited that we came with a product that was already very developed: it allowed us to work on even the smallest details during that month.
The line-up has shifted in these last few months with arrival of Boris on the drums. I felt that the announcement of the departure of Mark his predecessor was very succinct…
Lucas: For sure. At the same time there wasn’t a lot to say on the subject. Mark was at once a member of the band and a friend of ours but we found ourselves up against a wall due to his Russian nationality. It was a nightmare administratively: impossible to assure his constant presence in the band. We found ourselves 3-4 times on the eve of a tour unsure if we would have a drummer.
Baptiste: Lots of rehearsals and tours just weren’t possible.
Lucas: We need to rehearse and write together and that was no longer possible, that’s why we chose to leave Mark.
Boris: Because of all of these problems I had already been doing session stuff with the guys since 2013.
Lucas: Exactly, Boris has been playing with us regularly for two years, he covered a lot of shows that Mark couldn’t do due to visa reasons. The transition was easy.
The band has a very polished image across all platforms with a clear image. Can we extrapolate and say that Betraying The Martyrs have a sort of general concept that isn’t just found in the music?
Lucas: We are aware that these are all very important elements…
Boris: But we stay true to ourselves still. We aren’t going to dress up or do our make up to have a look that’s super refined or use very strong imagery.
Lucas: In 2017 you’re obligated to have a professional image, to the point that it is one of the most important things at the heart of the metal scene. It would be dishonest to say that image doesn’t matter to us. But we try to rest natural in our execution since our music is translated through our music.
Is being a French band an advantage or a disadvantage for a band like yours?
Baptiste: In terms of an audience France has never been the most rock and roll country obviously. France isn’t the UK, the US, or Germany where there is a large metal audience. But we are proud to be French. There are plusses and minuses to it.
Boris: I don’t think that it’s really inconvenient for us. The problem is more for bands that sing in French, it’s a lot harder to bring them abroad. A band who sing entirely in French is going to have a lot more difficulty to develop abroad.
Lucas: I think it could help us in the US, to be the little French band that could.
Baptiste: From the beginning of the band we decided to sing in English so we could tour abroad, especially in the USA.
In a month you have a tour with Chelsea Grin, is there a goal beyond trying to impress their fans?
Lucas: For us it’s the tour that follows the release of the album so it’s the first tour where we will play songs from the new album every night, so that makes us really happy. We are waiting to see what the reaction of the public is. After the album comes out this will be the best way to see people’s reactions and discuss it with them after the concert and to get some feedback on their impressions of the record, find out their favourite songs, etc. Like we said in the intro, the opinion of the public is the most important thing and we are excited to see it!
Speaking now of Hellfest, 2017 will be your second participation. What does it mean for you to be invited to participate?
Lucas: It’s a huge opportunity and a great pleasure.
Baptiste: It’s also a huge honour.
Lucas: Effectively, it’s an honour. As a French band it’s pretty much the biggest honour there is!
Baptiste: When you start a band at 15 in middle and high school you have your eyes on Hellfest and the line-up. You go with all your friends. So to be on it is fantastic.
Boris: For me it will by my first time playing since I wasn’t in the band in 2012. However since I’m from the region I’ve been going since it was Fury Fest in 2003 and went all the way through Hellfest 2010. My goal was always to play with my old band (Bumbklaat). I never thought it would happen that I could play on the main stage with these guys. It will be the best show of the year for me. We will really deliver, if you want to see a BTM show it’s this one!
Lucas: We are truly excited. It happens in the month of June, our album by then will be fully digested by the public and we will arrive in full force with a beautiful setlist. It will be brutal!
So with Hellfest, how are you going to do it ? Will you stay all three days ? Are you going to try and guarantee the most amount of PR on location?
Lucas: It depends if we get other dates booked that weekend.
Baptiste: It’s the summer so there are a lot of festivals in that period.
Lucas: We hope that we can stay all three days like we did in 2012. Outside of the concert we gave it was one of the best weekends of my life. I had never gone previously and our friends in As They Burn, who have since broken up, were there. It was a huge accomplishment: us and our friends on the Hellfest line-up. There was a lot of emotion in that incredible weekend. I won’t say that we don’t want more dates around Hellfest… But a little still!
Outside of your set who is not to be missed this year?
Baptiste: In Flames for me I think, or Linkin Park.
Lucas: Dillinger Escape Plan. It will be one of the last chances to see them so this is your chance.
Boris: It will be really good to see Candiria again, since I discovered them at Fury Fest 2003. It makes me really happy to say that we are on the line-up with them.
Lucas: In every musical style it’s a party: the line-up is once more incredible.
I have to interview Sabaton soon, do you have a question for them?
Lucas: Can we borrow your tank for Hellfest? In exchange we will bring you some good wine!
Last question. Could you finish that sentence for me: “This is a story I have never told before and I shouldn’t do it but…”
Valentin (Hauser – bass / just entering the room): But I’m drunk so I’m going to do it anyway!
Many thanks to Charles (H.I.M Media)