I have known the band since 2015, so I’m only familiar with the last three albums, and I’m sure there are others in the same situation, so please tell us about the beginning.
The band has been created in 2001 and the debut album, “MONOLITHE I”, has been released in 2003. We released 7 full-length albums, 2 EPs and 1 compilation, the last one being our new album “Nebula Septem”. We play Doom Metal, with a serious tendency to be “prog-ish”, if that makes any sense. The band started as a side project but turned to become the main focus of its member over the years. Our career is well documented on our social medias and websites so this is pretty easy to find more details info. We even had a video documentary out during the “Nebula Septem” pre-promo run. It’s called “Innersight” and it can be seen on our Facebook and Youtube pages. There’s plenty of info about the band and its career in there. Our albums can be heard in their entirety on Bandcamp.
Your first four albums came out with the title Monolithe I-IV, each one including one really long song, but this tendency seems to have changed with the next album called Epsilon Aurigae. We got three exactly 15-minute long songs. What happened? Was it a concious structure, or just a sudden idea, or something completely different?
Well, back in 2014, when I started to work on what would become the duology “Epsilon Aurigae / Zeta Reticuli”, I was sort of done with the one-song albums. We had already done that 4 times so it was time to move on to something else, or it would have just become a gimmick, which would have started to become annoying and predictable. And also, the 4 first albums and the EPs belong to a saga called “The Great Clockmaker”, which came to its conclusion with the release of “Monolithe IV” in 2013. So it was time for a renewal.
From my point of view the Epsilon Aurigae and Zeta Reticuli album, which was released one year later, go hand in hand, so I think these 90 minutes were created together, am I right?
“Zeta Reticuli” has been released 6 months after “Epsilon Aurigae”. Yes, it’s a double album and it has been created and recorded as one big opus. We split is in two halves because it was part of a concept of having twin albums (a bit like GNR’ “Use Your Illusion” albums) and because we’re not in a time when people are able to go through 90 minutes of music in a row anymore. The vinyl version reunites both albums as one, though. I would say that the vinyl version is the actual real double album.
The Monolithe IV delivered a very strong, guitar-centric, swirling sound, which was gradually evolved and slowly became the trademark for the band. This thickness also characterized the songs that were written afterwards. Was this sound a conscious move from your side, or you’ve just „caught” it during the rehearsals and then finalized it?
There is no room for improvisation in MONOLITHE’s music, as almost everything is written beforehand; even the slightest details. It happens that new ideas arise during the recordings, but not often. Mostly, the music is just played as it was composed. But the input of each musician, the way they play, is influencing the final result of course. Earlier in our career, the only dubious part was the means we had for production of the records. If we have had money for the first two albums and the EPs for example, they would probably not sound the same. We could just do what we could back then. But later on, we got what we wanted. So yeah, everything’s absolutely conscious.
Your seventh LP, the Nebula Septem has been released recently. Surprisingly, it includes seven songs, each one lasting for 7 minutes. On the cover, we can see 7 heptagons forming a bottomless abyss. Can we say you have been living your last 2 years enthralled by the number 7?
“Nebula Septem” is our seventh album and since we’ve been used to play with numbers with our albums, we put more efforts in that formal concept with this one. We also have song titles with the first 7 letters of the alphabet and we’re using the 7 tonalities of the musical western
scale. It’s important for MONOLITHE to provide albums that are more than a collection of songs. We want to put as much meaning and depths as possible in them.
The new album also has this distinctive Monolithe-sound, but now the synthesizer, which has always been present, has gained much more space, so I feel the overall picture more ethereal, but somehow, the result is even denser. Please tell me about it.
I don’t think keyboards have gained more space; Overall, there is the same quantity as before and we remain a very guitar oriented band. That being said, there are some electronic music influenced bits on the album, such as the first half of “Gravity Flood” or a sort of Transgoa
effect in the middle of “Delta Scuti”. It was the inspiration of the moment and it sounded great within the context of this album. Sort of futuristic and dark. There are unusual elements within this kind of music, so of course they are striking for listeners. But if you consider the length of those parts and the length of the album, there are not prominent at all.
With Nebula Septem, your new singer, Rémi B. has been introduced, who has replaced one of your long-time member Richard L. You have changed a peculiar, rich voice to a deep, characteristic thunder. Could you tell us the reason behind it? Have you known Rémi and you’ve only thought of him, didn’t you have any other alternative choice, or you directly chose Rémi’s voice to match your ideas? As I can hear, the audible, clear lyrics are a main point regarding your music.
Actually Rémi isn’t the main singer on “Nebula Septem”. He just sings on “Delta Scuti” (and some clean vocals here and here) because he and I co-wrote the song and it had meaning for him to sing this one. The rest of the album has been sung by Sébastien Pierre. The reason why
it happened this way is because after Richard left, we weren’t sure we would give the job to Rémi. He is already a guitarist / singer in another band, which is a very difficult position, and we thought that doing it in two bands would require too much work. But after we recorded the
album, we still needed a singer, as Sébastien could not join us permanently because of a busy schedule with his own projects. That’s how we ended-up having Rémi as a singer after all, and so far it’s been working well.
The title of your new album’s last song, Gravity Flood has a quite atypical electro-space effect. This instrumental piece is a very good choice as the closing song, so my question is inevitable: is this your vision for the future? Is this where your ship turns and you’re going to conquer the space?
Maybe even the clean singing, which can be heard in Delta Scuti, will be presented more in the future? Do you have any solid ideas for the future?
We always had outside elements in our music. On “Monolithe II” we had an accordion, we had orchestral parts on 3 albums, we had a female choir on “Monolithe IV”, clean male singing in “Zeta Reticuli”, electronic music influenced parts in “Nebula Septem”… So that’s not unusual for us to use every musical tool at our disposal and tame them to the point they become part of what we do. So no, “Gravity Flood” is absolutely not an indication of the future music of MONOLITHE. Who knows how it will turn out to be? I don’t know at this point. But we’ll be at a different place, that’s for sure.
I’ve been always really interested in one thing; how does it come that certain songs only last for a specific time? Let’s say after 7 minutes has passed, everyone’s throwing their gears away? Someone shouts that „Hey, guys, time’s up, let’s go grab some beer!” 😀
The songs don’t form during rehearsals, I would hate to work like that and for me it’s the best way to turn everything you come up with into shit. MONOLITHE’s music is created when I’m alone; all I need is silence, a guitar, a computer and a few softwares. Some of them are nothing more than a sort of modern versions of the good old friendly sheet music, you know. I like to have everything written down and these days I actually don’t record anything before the actual album recording is starting. With those sorts of tools, you can have a view on your whole song and carve, polish & sharpen it until it becomes exactly what you intended to do, including the length.
On the Metal Archives, next to the Monolithe name, one can find the genre tag „funeral doom”. In the early times this tag was quite correct, but over time you have overgrown this style. The „doom” has remained as a strong point, but your overall sound is more diverse than that. How would you classify yourselves?
We tag ourselves as Doom Metal. Or, Dark Metal. I think it’s both explicit and vague, which is ok. I know it will always be hard to classify our music but we’re ok with it. On the other hand, I’m really fed up with that Funeral Doom tag. I have nothing against that style, and we even had bits of its back in the early days, as you said. But since a lot of reviewers and listeners rely on Metal Archive instead of their own ears and brains, we always get the “Funeral Doom” part. Is “Nebula Septem” a Funeral Doom album? Even my grandmother knows it isn’t. It’s annoying because it probably has turned off a lot of people who don’t like Funeral Doom and were consequently not interested in trying to listen to what MONOLITHE does. Some other people, and we could see that in a few reviews, expected Funeral Doom when they got “Nebula Septem” and they were like “What’s that? It’s not Funeral Doom! I’ve been tricked! So I don’t like it”. No big deal though, but sometimes you read things and shake your head and say “What the fuck man???”.
As I can see on your bandcamp site, every piece of your music is available. I consider this to be a good thing, so everyone can check into your musical realm in advance, and then they can decide whether they wish to buy your album or not. So you don’t sell a pig in a poke. Your fans will buy your music in digital or in physical form anyway. Lately, this platform has been growing rapidly, but there are still people who are facing this progression and just pushing their old ideas to „buy, buy, buy!”. What do you think about this?
That’s an interesting question. First, as an artist, I have to say that what matters the most to me is to be listened to. So if more people can hear me, even if they don’t end-up buying any album, I’m ok with it. I’m ok with illegal downloading and I think sites such as Bandcamp are awesome. Youtube has, in recent years, help bands to get a considerable follow-up from people who would have otherwise never heard of you. So that’s all good.
We’re in 2018. We’re not in 1978 anymore. Things have changed. Some for the worse, some for the better. But today’s business model in music is what it is and you can’t change it and it’s useless to try to fight it. It includes using every tool around to get known. And yes, there will always be people who will buy a CD, a vinyl, a shirt, so you can still earn some money. It is, anyway, vital, especially for bands like us. We don’t sell a lot. We have to rely on the people who continue to do so, in order to earn enough money to finance the next album. Or we’re done. It’s as simple as that.
Until a few years ago, the release of the CD was considered the release of an album. That’s not the case anymore today. At least, I don’t see it that way. The release is when the album gets to the listeners. Whatever the means. CD & vinyl have become merchandising, just the same as T-shirts. The music itself has basically become free.
I wonder where you gain your energy and inspiration from? What are you main influences, speaking about music, books, movies, anything?
It’s good that you’re also talking about books and movies, because it’s always expected from musicians that they talk about musical influences. But the truth is, you can be influenced by a lot of other things. Even non-artistic things, such as travels or sport. Personally, I’m like a sponge that absorbs things that get in contact with me and when it’s squeezed, you get that melting pot of influences that makes something new. Ok, not the sexiest metaphor, but you get the idea!
Beside being a musician, what do you do? Work, family, anything that is not about music? If there is such a thing…
There are no such things. When an album cycle is over, we get in coffins and get cryogenically frozen for some time, and then get awakened by the label when they want to earn money with a new album.
On a more serious note, we have 2 married people, some of us have children, we have people working in the film industry, in show business, we have engineers (but they don’t engineer the rip!), and a data processor.
Finally, allow me a „what if” question: if you were granted to organize a Monolithe concert (supposing you were financed, money doesn’t matter, but let’s stay real) how would you do it? Would there be warm-up bands or any supporting act? Any guest musicians?
I think we would try to make a good show where we would have some bands we’re friend with play, such as, perhaps, Abyssic,Abyssic from Norway, Hemelbestormer from Belgium or Enshine from France/Sweden if they could play live for that one gig. MONOLITHE would make two different sets, the first one being a normal one and the second one being one of the first four albums being played in its entirety. And I would require silence instead of loud music in-between bands’ performances, as I’m really sick of loud-recorded music in almost every venue in the world. The audience’s hearing (as well as the musicians’) need some rest between the bands’ sets.
Thanks a lot for your answers! I hope we’ll once have the chance to attend a Monolithe gig!