REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER: freedom is the most important thing in life
REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER is one of the few bands, in my opinion, that deserves the title of a post-black metal band. These French musicians are an example of good, high quality and successful post-black metal. The possibility to hear them live in Lithuania is close already – the band will give a concert in Devilstone Open Air festival in Anykščiai this weekend already, on July 16.
The first idea that comes to my mind regarding REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER (RLHT), is that it’s the first band, which succeeded under the label of Post-Black Metal. I mean, I probably haven’t heard a better band of such genre, which also gained so much success. So in my eyes – you’re a band, which deserves to be called Post-Black Metal, not having a negative side of this speculation. Are we on the same page regarding this topic? Do you think the band has gained enough of appreciation already?
First of all, thanks a lot for supporting us. That’s a good question, because we feel that it can be difficult to categorize the style of the music we play. J.J.S. (guitar) didn’t thought about any limits when he set the bases for the first album, his own goal was to write dark pieces, epic songs, with a strong atmosphere and identity. The aim was to have a result with guts, to give birth to something different… That was the same process for our second album “Exile”, but we wrote it together, on a collegial way. When we compose, we don’t want to be limited and deal with boundaries that could stop us, we just want to make art, something spontaneous, without thinking of things like “that riff doesn’t sound Post-Black Metal, so we don’t keep it”. Personally, I don’t really like the specific designation “Post-Black Metal”, maybe because I don’t listen to bands that claim that they are into this genre… “Post-Black Metal” is just “Black Metal”, after all. Just a continuity, an evolution. And this is not our role to classify and put some labels on what we play.
Your sophomore album “Exile” has definitely a much more Black Metal approach than your debut album. How can you explain such direction? As far as I understand, the emergence of new singer didn’t affect this much, or did it? Or you consider it as the natural “evolution” of your creativity?
As I said, our first release has been written by only one person (J.J.S.), thus it was more personal than “Exile”, that is born through a collaborative work between all the members of REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER. Since the beginning, our target is to create a concept, beyond the music itself. Something coherent where sound and artwork gather, under the sign of our devotion for Black Metal. Although we have many influences, we all love this genre, so we naturally write this kind of songs… I mean, we didn’t have to force anything to create “Exile”, that was very fluid. And between our first album and the second one, a big change was the evolution of the line-up, with the arrival of Thomas: he has a real Black Metal approach in his voice, that also explains this evolution.
One of your band members, might be it was J.J.S., has mentioned that the musical aim of RLHT is to mix Black Metal and Post-Rock the best possible way, as these are two styles that you like a lot. This might happen in the 3rd album of yours. To tell you the truth, I hope it won’t, hahah. Cause, actually, “Exile” sounds too good for me in order to change anything drastically. Thought, considering the difference of your two albums, I wouldn’t be too much surprised. So, what are the reasons for the constant change? Are there really any musical aims that you would like to achieve? Doesn’t this depend on many other circumstances – ideas, influences at the needed moment, etc. – for just simply “dream” of merging Black and Post-Rock? In general, luckily, I don’t find too much (if any) Post-Rock in your music…
To mix Post-Rock and Black Metal is the personal approach of J.J.S., but in the long term our objective is different, there is shades. For us all, the most important is to be logic with our concepts, be inspired by the tastes of everyone, and mix the influences of each member… This is not always easy, even if we have common preferences, the band is not made of clones: we all have individual tastes. The challenge is to obtain something good with it. I personally think that our third album will be the continuity of the two lasts; we’ll just endeavour to go as far as possible in the creative process. Once more, no boudaries in this field.
It seems that Biblical mythology is not rare in your creativity. What is the relation between RLHT and Biblical symbols/shots/ideas? Is there any direction you want to show those Biblical themes, i.e. negativity towards them, towards religion, etc.?
You know, there is no ideological message in our music; we only deal with these themes on a creative way. Those symbols are intense and sum-up the concepts we want to show in our music, that’s why we use them. We’re atheists who tell stories, not proselytes. The biblical myths are a never-ending source of inspiration for us, but our reading only serves art, we just make diagnosis through the prism of these legends. We’re are not involved in anything except art, we’re just musicians, witnesses of a period, that’s all.
As far as I understand, the man, its declines and failures, is the core of your topics/ideas. Where does that come from? What is the essence of the fall of the man? Do you want to show that in such case man is the victim, or rather the sinful reason of his fate?
Hard to say… We all have a different opinion about it. As you noticed, we focus on a one main point: the fall of the men, who are rejected and tortured by god despite of their devotion and their love for the divine. All the lyrics are related to these concepts, they all evoke biblical mythology and also deal with actual issues, if we read between the lines: the myths don’t describe some lost and ancient times, but the world we live in now. That’s why they are so enthralling. These ancestral stories must be read like it, the analogy gives them all their strength. They have been written in the past to describe the reality of today and predict the future… The global warming is a good example, that’s the logical effect of our behaviour, and soon we will have to deal with the “divine punishment” because of our sinful deeds, somehow… We could also add that the theme of the exile is also a very, very actual one, regarding to the massive migrations of deprived people who run away from desolated places to safer ones. Anyway, these stories are living stories. Especially during these times of obscurantism, when the fundamentalism harms mankind.
Talking about new album in one interview you have stated: “This new album pictures both this fall and the birth of a consciousness that leads men to reject the Lord and all the principles of adoration during the exile… To finally become their own gods and “sit on this throne””. In this case, this sounds like a definite description of satanic approach, don’t you think? The man is his own god… How do you perceive that? Man higher than any other creature? Or simply – what we are and what we have is the direct result of own actions? Also, I see a wider explanation on man and his dogmas in that statement, or am I wrong?
It’s more a philosophy that makes sense through our struggle against any form of dogma. For us like for a lot of people, the reason is superior to the belief, and each man shall seize the most precious gift of nature – freedom. At first, when we wrote “Exile”, we thought that it would be interesting to focus on the character of Lilith, who dared to rise up against the divine power. Lilith is a woman, thus the significance of her symbol is very powerful, if we look at the consideration of the female in monotheist religions… Anyway, we don’t paint us as Satanists, but for REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER, nothing is more important than individual freedom and the power of decision toward life.
In general, “god” is very often used word in your lyrics. God, Lord, horns, etc. And actually, I can’t understand, how is your creativity not related with the “religious” message. Any explanation on this? Cause for me personally, I would argue that you’re carrying the anti-religious message in general, don’t you?
None of us is religious, but we’re all fascinated by the three monotheist religions… We’re always the firsts to visit the churches of the towns we play in! I had the opportunity to visit the Sainte Chapelle de Paris, a chapel that Saint Louis (Louis IX), king of France from 1226 to 1270, made build during his reign, to welcome the sacred relics (The Crown of Thorns, for example). The goal of this place is the ultimate adoration, this is like magic… An absolute masterpiece of architecture, 15 colossal glass walls. These stained-glasses windows represent more than 1000 scenes of the Old and New Testament! I admire this place, but the paradox is that I wouldn’t feel any sadness if it would be destroyed. Life and death of things are the only spiritual law that obtain our respect and admiration, there’s nothing above it.
In one interview you have stated that visual arts influence you much more than any other form of art, except for the music, of course. But in general, what are the things that most likely influence your creation? Many Post-Black Metal bands usually mention the nature itself. What are your muses in this regard?
Concerning the artwork, we are very inspired by artists like Gustave Doré, John Martin and Albrecht Dürer… Personally, I feel more inspired by my researches of the history of religions, or European middle-age, than a simple walk in the nature.
We don’t get muses, we just need calm to write songs, to feel in harmony with ourselves, like monks in their monastery. I always have this question: how some bands can write songs on tour? Anyway, there are no magic words, we worked hard to obtain the result that you can hear on “Exile”.
“Our music is a contemplation, not a celebration” – that’s your statement. So what things do you relate your music to? What kind of contemplation are you looking for? About life, about reality, about negativity, etc.?
For us, to compose music starts first by a phase of introspection. We love to be alone at home to begin the writing of a song, before co-building it on rehearsal. The goal is to convey to the listener a precise emotion, in the best way… But for it, we need first loneliness to focus on the bases on the track. J.J.S., who wrote the majority of our songs, is a solitary guy, and this highly influences our music, giving it all his contemplative and melancholic side. For us, the songs must live, tell a story. People have to keep in mind that they can listen us like reading a book that deals with the fall of human being.
You have described your needs for live appearance as simply as “A simple room. Cold and absolutely black, without any natural light… Only our light system”. However, not that rare you have to play in a day-time in front of the sunshine, etc. How do you deal with that then?
We welcome it on a good way, that’s a good challenge. When the band started rehearsals in 2012, that was in a very dark room deprived of lighting: since the beginning, we try to maintain this atmosphere on stage, to perpetuate this particular tradition, may I say ritual… Playing with very minimalist lights. We enjoy it. But our music is not only atmospheric, it is also violent and frenetic. This summer, playing in a day-time won’t be a problem, I’m sure we’ll love it too. The stages are bigger at festivals, and even if we’ll play sometimes under a shiny sun, there’s no doubt that we’ll have good time. To go out of the “safety zone” teach a lot.
You decided to not play live tracks from “Exile” until the album was released. But in many interviews you said you were dead-wanting to play them live. Does that mean that live performances are what this band is most looking for? Do you prefer stage appearance before releasing audio material, or what?
We are a live-band, definitely. In our shows, we want the people to face a universe they never experienced before. We get our own light system that we control with footswitches, candles, strobes; we give a lot of importance in fog and darkness, etc… On stage, to give energy only at 80% would be like lying to people who came to see us, so we are determined to give them the best of us, each time. We must do it, in every fucking gig. This is primordial for us.
Anyway, although we prefer playing live, we also appreciate the work on a studio, taking time to record and get distance from our songs. It’s another approach. Anyway, like being on stage, we also had a lot of pleasure in working with Francis Caste (“Studio Sainte Marthe”) for “Exile”. He did a great job and we are very proud of the final result, this is exactly what we expected.
You are coming from France and while browsing the responses online, I’ve noticed that there’s almost equal amount of material in French and English language. Can we say that the band has already gained not only local, but foreign appreciation as well? What about live shows in this regard? Do you think that RLHT is already successful beyond the borders of your native country?
We hope! Our label “Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions” did a good promotion abroad, thus we had many reviews from foreign countries… That could explain that. With internet, all is so easy. Many foreign people discovered us like that. We are pleased to learn that we get both French fans and fans from Eastern Europe, UK, US, Germany, etc… That’s a real step.
Considering the interviews, I’ve noticed that not only many questions repeat from interview to interview, but your answers also seem similar, maybe even a copy-paste style. What is the reason for that? Is it like a protest of “boring” journalism? Or rather lack of time? Do you agree that sincere and objective journalism in Metal media is absolutely a problem these days? Or “fast food” is what matters in this field as well?
To be perfectly honest, it’s a very difficult exercise to diversify the answer on a same question that you still answered 30 times before in others written interviews. We hardly try to adapt on each question, without considering the size of the media who get interest for us, but… We shall admit that it’s not always easy. Nowadays, the thing is that there is much more web medias than 10 or 20 years before… That’s great, but I’m sure that other bands will agree if I say that this is a true nightmare for musicians who don’t speak a perfect English, and who lack time! So yes, we’re kind of guilty, but when a media asks us questions for the first time, he shall understand that we’ve answered it many times before… Anyway, we also appreciate when journalists asks us interesting and intelligent questions. Unfortunately this is not always the case, but I reassure you, your questions are clever ones, man!
Though, as I’ve said, your music (especially the new one) sounds much like traditional Black Metal, don’t get me wrong, but you guys don’t look like stereotypical metalheads, or do you? How does the audience react to you usually? Do you often play typical Metal festivals, or you prefer other events? Or, as you have mentioned in one interview, “freedom is the most important” in this regard?
Exactly, freedom is the most important. We are not prisoners of a style. We have some pleasure to play in front of pure metalheads, like in front of Post-Hardcore guys. We get fans from both sides. We don’t give a fuck to the belonging to a church or another, we are just here for showing our vibes to music lovers. I can give you an example: before playing at “Devilstone”, we’ll be playing at “Dour Festival” in Belgium. That’s a huge festival, but we are aware that it gathers people from every musical background, Metal or not.
You have already been confirmed for the “Devilstone Open Air” in Lithuania this summer. What are your expectations coming to Lithuania for the first time? In general, what’s the experience when coming for the debut in any country? Do you think about the audience – what kind of audience it might be, how can they react to your music, etc.?
Playing abroad is always truly exciting. This is the first time we will be playing in your country, and also the first time we’ll go by plane to one of our gigs. We gave various shows in border countries, but never as far. We feel deeply proud to play the same night as BEHEMOTH, we all admire their music and career… Anyway, all that I can say is that it will be great. We are fucking impatient to see you, people, so get ready.