7 June 2018

Smoke Low Res Manuel Gagneux Zeal & Ardor, Official Press Picture 2018

Manuel Gagneux

Paris – Thursday May 3, 2018

“Metal, I think often, is like a haven for lost people”



How has been your stay in Paris so far?

It was OK. Actually, I sometimes fear these interview days but it was really enjoyable because it’s a good bar (The Black Dog) and yesterday I tried a lot of wine, which is fun also! (laughter)


What are your first memories in terms of music as a child?

I think it was going to my parents’ concerts because they were both musicians. They had us hang out backstage where they were playing. I think that was like the first contact.


What’s your assessment of the whole Devil Is Fine cycle? Quite a whirlwind, wasn’t it?

Yeah. It’s been extreme. If I look up… It’s been like a year since we started touring. Like half a year before is the release. This is not a hobby anymore: I get to do this all day, which is fantastic. And we got to visit so many places: it’s incredible, yeah! (smiles)


Did you feel some kind of pressure before starting to work on Stranger Fruit due to the success of Devil Is Fine?

There was but I think what made Devil Is Fine interesting is that there was no pressure: I did what I wanted to do. So when I realised that it was actually gone so I could just try to make music that I liked.


There’s roughly a year and a half between the release of Devil Is Fine and Stranger Fruit. Why not riding the wave following the success of The Devil Is Fine and waiting a tiny bit before offering some new material?

I don’t know… I think that if I have the songs it seems like an idiot move to not release it. And obviously, I’m not doing it for the money: I could do pop music (laughter). These songs, I mean we played a couple of them already on this tour last year so they’re not real songs. I would like to start new stuff so I have to get rid of it! (laughter)


What’s the artistic ambition of Stranger Fruit?

I just wanted to… Now that I had the time and little bit of money to invest, I wanted to have a bigger and better record. I had to confess to myself that I’m probably not the best mixer in the world so I had to get help! And I also don’t know how to mic a drum so I got Zebo Adam to help with the production and Kurt Ballou to mix it. Sonically, it’s a better album because the mix is just better.


Why choosing Zebo Adam and Kurt Ballou?

With Zebo, it is because his manager called mine and said: “Fuck, he won’t take many more clients, he really wants to work with whoever this young author guy is”. And then we met and we really had a good time and we talked about drum sound and how important it was and we both figured out: “Yeah, Kvelertak, they have a very good sound!. Who did this ?”. And of course, it was Kurt Ballou. It was really unromantic. We wrote an e-mail like: “Hey, do you have time, do you wanna mix”. And he answered: “OK”. That was that!


Stranger Fruit is fairly longer than Devil Is Fine. Was there a deliberate effort to kind of “break the mould”?

Yeah… But the last one was really short. It was almost more like an EP and to do that again would be way arrogant. Before I went into the studio, I had something like 36 songs and then less than half of that is one the record so… It would have been longer but it would have shitty songs so I compressed it! (laughter)


You had to get rid of a lot of songs…

Yeah, that’s a good thing I think. Because if you hold on to something that’s semi-good and you try to make it good in that time you could have had 10 new ideas and that would be much more interesting.


To which extent that album is a fully solo effort, crafting-wise?

The songs were done before I went to the studio with the other guys. What is different is that the drums are not programed. I programed them and then Marco von Allmen – who also played on tour – actually played them on the record. Other than that, it’s just me playing and singing.


I can feel a slighter more aggressive atmosphere overall. Was that intended since the early beginning?

Yeah. A big part of that is that it’s real drums and it attacks you a little bit. I wanted to go into both extremes more. Like more into the aggressive side and more into the softer side. Because if you have a bigger-contrast the effect of both elements is greater.


The promo documents mentions that the album tells “small isolated stories”. The project of doing a real concept album is a possible option in the future?

Yes but I think that the way people consume music nowadays with just listening to single songs… If you have like a concept album, nobody’s gonna listen to it. I mean not many people. Also, since I already had some songs and I really like them. We even played some and they have a lot of views on YouTube. If we wouldn’t include them, people would be really angry. Maybe next time? (smiles)


The promo stuff also mentions references to Ars Goetia, Yoruba and obscure literature and history within. That probably makes you an expert in terms or occult culture?

Not an expert, no. I read a couple of books. I read a couple of books but I don’t think that I’m an expert, no. I am fascinated by that stuff. It’s like fiction, like when you read a fantasy novel or something.


I’m quoting the promo stuff again: “Hidden away crafting the songs”. You didn’t hide into a cave, did you? How did you actually proceed to write that album?

Hum… Kind of, yeah. Because I live in a big house and it has a basement where we have a bar together and shows sometimes. When there’s no show, I work in there, record my demos. That’s where I was for any free day of the year, pretty much. It’s not romantic at all. I just drink a lot of coffee and I just try out stuff (laughter). I don’t need to have candles or anything…


Do you usually submit your songs to anyone before entering the studio?

I show it to a couple of friends. Like friends I know for a long time and have a similar music tastes. Sometimes they say “Hey, it’s shit!”. So then I show it to another friend and then if he says it’s shit… “Tant pis” (in French) – (laughter).


What’s the idea behind the art cover? The apple is the fruit of temptation? And there’s also a hole in it: the worm is already in the fruit?

We just wanted to have an illusion to “Strange Fruit”. In “Strange Fruit”, the song by Billie Holiday, she describes fruits hanging from a tree but she meant dead people hanging from the tree… The extension to that would be in today’s time shot people because nowadays the police would shot black people. That’ why it has a hole and it’s kind of disgusting. We wanted it… Yeah, the fruit of temptation we wanted to reference. Also like The Beatles album. Also we wanted to have something green because the design and the colours of the band are purple and green. I know that they don’t really fit but… (smiles)


How do you explain that not so many black people are involved in the metal scene?

I think it has to do with socialisation. I think that, especially in the black community, music is a big part of the identity so if you’re part of the hip-hop scene or of the jazz scene, it’s also a communal thing. Metal, I think often, is like a haven for lost people. Like my friends who used to listen to metal and me were the ugly kids or the kids without girlfriends. We got angry and we went to metal shows. In a way, it’s a different community where the people themselves go to whereas hip-hop is a community that takes people. Maybe that’s it! (smiles)


What do you actually know about Hellfest?

I know that every journalist I’ve talked to these 2 days said it’s one of the most amazing festivals. So I’m pretty excited at this point. The line-up is amazing. There’s like people who apparently go to the festival but only go to one stage because that’s their scene. I’m excited about playing there but I’m also really excited about checking what’s going on.


Will you stay there for the 3 days?

We’re trying to get like a free ticket so it can be 2 days there but maybe we have a concert before… So it will be one day but we’ll see…


Do you sometimes ask yourself: “Do I fit there”?

I don’t know! Because we’ve played so many weird festivals… We also play Les Eurockéennes, Wacken, Hellfest and then Montreux Jazz Festival!  We don’t fit anywhere! (laughter) So we just go with it! Either people like it or they don’t!


What can the audience expect from your performance as Hellfest?

It’s very intense, I think. Because we’re 3 vocalist and it has a very different effect on people. Especially in harder music, if you have multiple male vocalists, there’s this weird energy. Although there’s a lot of headbanging and sometimes, there’s moshing, most people are kind of confused but look interested. So expect stupid looks, I guess! (laughter)


Any additional comment regarding the line-up?

I saw Body Count in Leeds/Reading. I only saw Iron Maiden once in my life so I might have to check them out again. Baroness, of course. Kadavar, we played with them already. Batushka… There’s a lot of fucking amazing stuff going on. I’m not gonna be a guy that’s gonna be on one stage. I think I’m gonna hop around. This is gonna be fucking fun, man!


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…”

When you go out drinking with Tom Morello, he will not stop buying you tequila shots! (laughter)


Interview: Wombat.

Many thanks to Olivier (Replica Promotion).