Aries (France) 30/09/2015
What makes the French scene to be distinguished apart from the good bands in musical aspect, it is also the special personalities which appear in the scene. Somehow like that Aries appeared too. After the mentionable EP D'Ombres et De Flammes, La Hire, the main member of the band, comes to prove to me that in this case too, a special personality is hiding. With a great passion and devotedness exclusively to Black Metal, with knowledge and opinion on matters of art and a desire to present as many aspects of his multifaceted personality as possible, he talked to me about Aries but also for much more.
1. Hails La Hire, thanks for the interview. As long as I know Aries was formed in 2015, so you have not a long history as a band but I suppose that you began creating your music before forming the band. Would you like to give me some information about the band, the name and the two people behind it?
La Hire : Hello, and thank you, Orthodox Black Metal, to give me a chance to speak. Indeed, Aries is not my first musical project, and I’ve been a bassist for quite a few years now. But, and I may surprise you, the four tracks of the EP are my first personal compositions. I started to think about them around the end of 2014. In the first months of 2015 I asked Léandre, an old friend, if he wanted to join the band. And Aries was born. For now, Aries is the only musical project I’m in. But Léandre is a drummer in another group. That’s all I will say for that. The name of the band is an idea I had for quite a time. Aries, which means ram in Latin, refers directly to the well-known constellation of the astrological Zodiac. Since this band is a very personal project, I thought that it was a natural thing to name it from a personal reference, namely my own birth sign. I must say that I really hesitated to choose the French word “Bélier”, but Aries, in Latin, seemed a better choice to be understood widely; and also, there is something magical about Latin language… I could talk quite a length about astrology, but to be concise, let’s say that Aries is the sign of the original fire, the fire of the beginning, of passion, of intuition, but also the fire of ingenuity, of simplicity and impulsiveness. In other words, Aries is a natural sign, a “raw” sign! There may be a bit of all these things in my music… On a symbolical level, the ram is also very powerful. It refers to the flying ram Chrysomallos, mounted by Phrixos, and whose Golden Fleece inspired the saga of Jason and the Argonauts. It also evokes the snake with a ram-head, which is an attribute of Cernunnos, the horned God of the Celtic religion, and even Khnoum, Amon, or Kerty, for the Egyptian religion. The ram is also important in Christianity. It is the animal offered in sacrifice by Abraham, in lieu of his son Isaac, thanks to the divine intervention. Jesus’s cousin St John the Baptist is sometimes represented with a ram. In the primitive imagination of Christianity, the Christ also appears as a ram, as the one who guides the flock. But at the same time, the ram’s horns do allude to the Devil’s horns… Finally, in a bit more down-to-earth consideration, we can say that it is an animal who aptly symbolizes the countryside and also Nature with its calm and mysteries.
2. All the compositions are yours, so why this band is not an one-man band? How much is Léandre involved with the band?
La Hire : Indeed, Aries was first thought as a one-man band, and Léandre is much less invested in it than I am. That being said, maybe the EP would have never been released, without him. First, because he is, unlike me, an excellent drummer who contributed to almost every groove of the drums. Then, because he helped me with the mixing and mastering. Finally, because he’s a trusted partner with whom I discuss my tracks when I have a doubt. And also, if I ever want to play live one day, the drummer is already there.
3. Recently you released your first EP, “D'Ombres et De Flammes”. My first thought was “This is an impressive cover”. Do you want to tell me more information about it? Why did you choose this painting to be the cover of your release and what does it represent to you?
La Hire : It is a painting of 1851 by Theophile Schuler entitled “The chariot of Death” which you can fully admire if you unfold the booklet (or if you look it up on the internet!). He is an Alsatian painter who was deeply struck by the violence of his time, especially the second revolution of 1848 which put an end to the monarchy and established a second republic in France. The reason why I chose this painting as the illustration of Aries’ first EP is really simple: I find it a fitting reflection in images of what I try to express in sounds. The violence with which the horses pull the chariot, the melancholy face of the angel of death, the dumbfounded bodies around him, the dawn, the Christ Crucified… Each pictorial element can refer to a specific aspect of my music, to the style as much as the content. I don’t want to explain thoroughly, I let each one of you make your own idea. More generally, this Romantic painting evokes the end of a glorious era, and the beginning of hardships for France and its people; hardships with which struggle would be as vain as to struggle with the death to come, or time passing by. Like Schuler, I’m moved by the inexorable decline of our former greatness, and haunted by the nostalgia of an ended era. When Schuler paints this hurt, this anger, this melancholy, I scream it.
4. Moving on to the musical part of the album, you have produced an interesting result. Do you want to tell me more about your music? What inspires you or pushes you to write music?
La Hire : I think the composer is, paradoxically maybe, not always the best to talk about his music, and to be honest, I can’t really put a label on Aries’ subgenre within Black Metal music. One review of the EP mentions a mix between atmospheric and melodic Black Metal. I think it is quite accurate. As for the production, it’s rather minimalistic, like going back to the roots of Black Metal. I don’t know if Aries will always sound like that, and I know that some people didn’t like its “raw”-ness. That being said, it’s a choice I’m totally at ease with; it gives a feeling of cold and distance (in space and time) to the tracks. For professional reasons, I spent the last five years of my life without the possibility to play music, and I was really afflicted by that. Aries is like my rebirth. My inspirations are diverse. I’m really close to the artistic genre known as Romanticism, and not exclusively in a musical perspective. As you know, Romanticism is a literary movement born in Europe by the 18th century and which flourished during the first half of the 19th century in France. It comes from an intellectual reaction against the classicism, its formalism and its fantasized view of the Antic world. Romanticism worships the “I”, which will logically turn into the worship of an “Us”, that is to say, nationalism. Romanticism is thus a veneration of History since it invites each one of us to look to one’s past and one’s people past. It is a cult of the feeling, of love and hate, which are considered as a truer and more authentic reality than hypocritical Reason. And finally, Romanticism is the swan song of the religious feeling, a last ode to the cathedrals. After that comes Nietzsche, god’s death and the last man.
5. Your lyrics are written in French and for many people (including myself) it is difficult to understand the meanings you want to express. Would you like to tell me what do you want to express through your lyrics and how and when do you like to write them?
La Hire : Usually, I don’t really like to talk about my lyrics, because I don’t want to impose my own interpretation. I prefer to let the listener decide which interpretation of the lyrics moves him the most. This is why, by the way, they consist more in images and metaphors than in mere descriptions of the subject or the feeling. Nonetheless, I can give a few useful elements to those who are not familiar with French language. “Poussières de Renaissance” alludes to the paradoxical return of the symbols and gods from the Antiquity during the European Renaissance. “Hyperborée” is a nostalgic description of the mythical island and cradle of all European people. The lyrics of “D’ombres et de flammes” are certainly the most mysterious, even for me. They mainly talk about the relation between light and darkness, through the evocation of some astrological or mystical symbols. They end with a Latin formula. These three tracks are elaborated as poems with alternate rhymes (although I sometimes don’t respect the rigorous count of the syllables…). Finally, “Souvenirs du pays de France” is a bit different since it is a poem by Chateaubriand, the famous French writer. I slightly modified it to make it fit in the structure of the song. In these melancholic lines, the poet evokes the French countryside in which he was born and raised. Broken hopes, nostalgia about the Origins, mysticism, Chateaubriand. You will not be surprised to find there the romanticism that inspires me and permeates every track by Aries. I write rather spontaneously, in one shot, after the riff of the guitars have been set. I go where my pen goes. Sometimes, I already know the theme of the song when I compose with the instruments; sometimes I need to think afterwards about the music I composed, to find a theme that would fit. In parallel, I always read some good French books. It inspires me a lot.
6. Which bands do you think, have influenced your music? Which bands are your favorite and what kind of music or artists or bands do you listen in your spare time?
La Hire : Like everybody else, most of the bands I’ve listened to – and liked – influenced my music somehow. To be short, I’ll mention only four of them, the ones who influenced the most my way of arranging music and my vision of Black Metal, but not necessarily the ones who sound the most like Aries in the end. First, Burzum, for the nagging riffs and the half-light atmosphere. And because Varg is a very singular character and he was tasteful enough to marry a French woman! Then, Gorgoroth (and God Seed), for its raw and melodic approach at the same time. “Under the Sign of Hell” is certainly one of my favorite Black Metal album, and Gaahl does have a presence on stage which has no equal. The last two bands are, no surprise, French-speaking band: Peste noire, to begin with. It may be a little cliché for a French Black Metal band to say that he’s influenced by PN, but it’s a reality. Famine is kind of a celebrity for us, deservedly so. He is a musical pioneer, who has everything it needs to make traditional Black Metal, but who prefers most of the time to get off the beaten tracks, and to take risks. In this regard, he is to the Black Metal what Céline is to Literature. About intellectual meaning, he dared to conceptualize what is, for him, French Black Metal: dirty, coprophile, lout, grotesque, like a painting of Bosch. But when Famine is completely fine with his Third Estate vision, I would rather dream about Nobility… And Chateaubriand, finally, does not embody the French spirit less than Rabelais does. He just expresses another dimension of it, in his own way. Then, Forteresse. The Black Metal from Quebec is really good, and they are, to me, the most remarkable musicians. You just have to listen to one of their tracks to feel lost in the immensity and cold of the Canadian forests. I was really inspired by this ability to create an atmosphere, as well as by their admitted traditionalism. Aside from Peste Noire, I can mention some more bands. First, Sühnopfer and his last album for which we waited 4 years, and which is excellent. Then, the scandalous bands from Toulon, Seigneur Voland and Krystallnacht, two bands with a little production but with a revelation for each track. In the same style, there is also Blessed in Sin that I really like. Finally, the two albums of Aldaaron, a band from Grenoble, are pure gems; but we didn’t hear from them for a few years now. Outside France, I like the German Heimdalls Wacht or Summoning, from Austria: the first for their acute sense of melody, the second for their ability to create this epic and melancholic atmosphere, all at the same time. And finally, I still have to mention Dimmu Borgir, a famous band I don’t listen to anymore, but its “Death Cult Armageddon” is one of my first contact with the Black Metal world. It all seems exclusively Black Metal, you’d say. Well, yes, I have to say that apart from some classical or baroque composers, I mainly listen to Black Metal and nothing else. For a long time, I was a fan of melodic death metal, but the actual evolution of the scene really displeases me. And then, there are so many different sounds and inspirations in the small world of Black Metal that it’s really difficult to see and hear everything – and I discover excellent stuff every week with youtube and bandcamp!
7. Do you listen and follow the Black Metal scene of nowadays? Are there any bands that you like?
La Hire : I think I already answered: I am a big fan of Black Metal that I listen to almost every day. But, if I have a lot of admiration for the Inner Circle and its style and sound, I am rather open to what the actual scene does today, and to the most recent bands. I pay close attention to the evolution of Cascadian Black Metal and I’m very happy that the Americans finally managed to create a Black Metal style that really suits them. I also like some Black Metal with folk influences, like Windir, Goatmoon or, closer to my home, Aes Dana. To be quick about the recent bands I noticed lately, I will only mention the French ones: Baise Ma Hache which is absolutely not a mere clone of Peste Noire, like some slanders say. It’s a really unique band who deserves to be followed. Then, Neptrecus, which has the same passion for the History of France than I have. And also, the young Norman scene with Caverne or Ostara for example, who sounds to me a bit like the bands from Toulon in the inspiration, with a Nordic trend in addition.
8. The French scene is huge, maybe the biggest scene in Europe. Are you an active member of the scene, namely do you cooperate, contact or hang out with other bands from France?
La Hire : I’m not a really active member of the scene, and since a few years I almost never attend to live concert. I knew Svarga, from Neptrecus, before I created Aries. Thanks to the Internet, I sympathized with some members of other bands, but for the moment, that’s it.
9. French Black Metal also has a great and interesting history since the beginning of the movement. What is your opinion of the French scene of the 90ies and how much has it influenced you and the scene of nowadays in general?
La Hire : I already gave some piece of answers about that, too. Musically, the French scene remains my favorite. From the 90’s to nowadays, there are still interesting and innovative bands. And what’s more, even if the French scene is globally coherent, each regional scene does have a special identity, which guarantees a wide diversity of sounds and atmospheres – just like the landscapes of this beautiful country. With the Norwegian scene, it is undoubtedly the French scene that influenced me and my music the most.
10. Back to Aries. I don’t know if you play live. I suppose you don’t because of the few members. Do you plan to play live in the future?
La Hire : Indeed, we don’t play live due to a lack of arms! Within a month, I had two offers, and one of them was for outside my country. It’s a bit heartbreaking to say no. Maybe we will engage some musicians in the future, but I don’t intend to for now.
11. Have you begun writing material for your next release? Will it be a full length or something smaller, another EP or a split album? Tell me more about the new material. How will it sound?
La Hire : I started to compose the next songs. If everything goes right, there should be enough to make an album out of it, with the help of a label I hope. It would also be a pleasure to make a split with another band, and I’m open to any offer. I can’t tell you much about this new material because it’s only the beginning of it. Furthermore, I don’t even know if I will manage the mix myself or if I will record in studio. But, in theory, it should be in the same spirit as the EP: frenetic and melancholic, passionate and cold, mystical and disillusioned, in other words: romantic.
12. Thanks for the interview and I am looking forward to your next release. Do you want to sum up your near future plans and add anything for conclusion?
La Hire : Thank you for this interview and the support. If you don’t know Aries, I hope that this interview made you eager to discover our universe. If you already know, I hope you learned a few things. I received a lot of support since the EP came out, and I’d like to thank again everyone who contributed to this through the social networks or by buying “D’ombres et de flammes” in cd or online. The ram is born and this is just the beginning.