Hellzzzzzzz there! I don’t wanna start this interview with some boring questions about the history of The Great Old Ones, instead I would like to ask you about the times before The Great Old Ones, when all members were starting to play music. What were your first bands? When have you started to play music / metal and what are your roots? Are they exclusive to metal music or there were also some other musical styles, which you played?
Xavier Godart: I started a band in high school with some friends, we played mostly covers of classic rock and punk stuff. Then I was involved in some punk hardcore / math core bands, influenced by bands like Botch or Converge. I also did some music for myself, influenced by Cult Of Luna or Isis. TGOO is my first touring band. As for the others, Benjamin played in some hardcore bands like me, Jeff played in more bands than I can imagine, from folk to death metal. He played in Tormenta, a great math rock band. Sébastien played mostly in death metal bands. Léo played in lots of bands too, from jazz and funk to black metal.
So, why H.P.Lovecraft and not E.A.Poe, S.King or G.Masterton? Or Tolkien? What is so influential and intriguing about his works that it makes you base the music / lyrics of The Great Old Ones on his concepts? Do you remember the first time you’ve read his novels? What feelings does it awake in you?
Benjamin read HP Lovecraft work when he was a teenager and I think it has a huge impact on him. The universe he created is huge and it's an infinite source of inspiration. You can express feelings, as long as scenes or landscapes based on HPL descriptions. It could have been another author but for some reason, Lovecraft was a more natural match when Benjamin started to compose for this project. But maybe we'll find the inspiration somewhere else in the future, who knows.
Lovecraft has obviously inspired many metal bands, starting with Metallica in their early days, through such Morbid Angel andfinishing with some current underground bands like Unaussprechlichen Kulten. Why, do you think?
I think it's pretty obvious that thematics in HPL novels fit pretty well with metal. Feelings of horror, fear, madness are common theme.
Some people go as far as seeing some truth in the stories Lovecraft wrote, that he was a visionary who was able to see things that are hidden from the sight of normal people. I wonder do you believe in extraterrestrial or other such things, as ghosts, etc? For example, all these mysteries of the Egyptian pyramids… What do you think of it?
I will just say that we are all down to earth kind of people, so no, we don't believe in such things.
Tell us something more about the concept, which you chose for “Tekeli-Li”. It obviously is mainly based on "At the Mountains of Madness" novel, am I right? Your label has even released a special edition of the album with this novel, what – I must admit – is a killer idea!
Thanks! The album is entirely based on “At The Moutains Of Madness”. You can see it as a retelling of the story. As the novel is in the public domain, we had the idea to print an original copy, with some artwork from our singer and guitarist Jeff Grimal, who is also a great painter. We proposed the idea to our label and they were really excited about this thing.
I wonder how the songs for The Great Old Ones are usually composed? I mean, having such concept, you obviously must try to fit it into the music. So, is it difficult to capture the essence, the atmosphere and the feeling of Lovecraftian myths in the music? How does it usually look like? Also, the fact of having three guitarists makes the whole process easier or even more complicated?
Benjamin Guerry (vocals / guitars) is responsible of 80% of the material. He writes music with the concept in mind and then we let the music evolve in rehearsal until it reaches a point when everything seems complete. It's a pretty natural process. Also, having three guitars is not really a big deal (if you forget the weight of the gear...). Bands commonly records much more than two guitars in studio but aren't able to reproduce everything for live gigs. Keeping three guitarists in the band allows us to play everything live.
That sounds wise, I guess. Let’s speak of the music of The Great Old Ones. Obviously we all describe it as post-something. Post black metal, post metal, post rock… I do feel though that “Tekeli-Li” may sound too extravagant and too unconventional for most of black metal fans, even if it certainly keeps some influence of this music here and there. But there are many more layers in your music. So, to whom do you feel your music is directed to? What surrounding does it require when being listened to? And what kind of feedback did you receive so far?
We're open minded people. We're obviously influenced by black metal, but not only. We put a lot of things in our music, consciously or unconsciously. So, I guess you need to be open minded to appreciate our music. Feedback is really good so far. Of course, not everyone gets it, but most of the time they understand what we try to do. And that's great.
How do you feel your music has progressed since the “Al Azif” album? Did you try some new things, speaking of the technical aspects, playing, song structures, etc? Was is a challenge for you to compose an album, which would be better or at least as good as the debut?
“Al Azif” was our first effort, and as much as we like this album, we were unhappy of some little things, like the drum sound for example. We tried to fix these things on “Tekeli-Li” and I can say we're pretty happy of how it came out. ”Tekeli-li” is also much more resulted in terms of composition, everything seemsmore consistent on this album for us. We're really proud of what we achieved.
The music of bands like The Great Old Ones often reminds me the movie soundtracks, so I wonder if they are any inspiration for the band when composing it? And more so, what would be more influential – black metal or the so called post rock / metal genre?
Well, I think we tried to write this album as a soundtrack for “At The Mountains of Madness”, so I guess that explains why you feel like this. As I was saying before, we're inspired by all kinds of music, mostly metal of course, but not only. We really enjoy bands that don’t put boundaries to themselves and try to experiment, and that's what we are trying to do too.
Such song as “The Ascend” sounds very special to me. It is a perfect combination of black metal with post metal. What purpose is of such instrumental song? Why did it actually end up being one and not having any vocals?
This track represents ascend of the mountain, just before William Dyer discover the non-Euclidean city. The storm during a few minutes, majority of blast-beat, and then the calm, when the plane stops, with acoustic guitars and cello... It simply follows the novel. And we felt that this part of the novel doesn't need any lyrics to be described.
We have also such song as “Behind the Mountains”, which is obviously absolutely amazing. But I wonder how does it work to play such long songs live, for both: you – the musicians, and for audience?
Well, all our songs are pretty long so that doesn't make any difference for us. Also, we usually play our setlists in a row, without stopping too much between songs. It's only a problem when you only have 30 minutes for a gig, we usually prefer to play 3 songs instead of one or two.
The artwork for the new album must be also something special for you. I mean it is not a typical metal cover and maybe the small CD size won’t let us see all the details, but it surely looks intriguing. Unveil some more details on the artwork, please.
Jeff Grimal our guitarist / singer makes all artworks for the band. It's a real asset for us. He works with the concept in mind and proposes us his vision. And that usually match very well with the music. On “Tekeli-li” artwork, I guess we can see an abstract vision of these mountains. We felt that an abstract work suited better, as we can let the listener draw his own vision of these mountains in his head.
The cover of Bjork’s “Bachelorette”… I must say it is not an obvious choice for a metal band to play a song of the artist like her. So, why did you pick this one up, what’s the story behind it?
We're all amateurs of the Björk work, but no one in the band is a real fanatic of her. Benjamin just heard that song one night at a party and just thought it could be great to write a cover of this track. And for some reason, he actually did it. We weren't thinking about releasing it, but in December 2012, our Europeantour was cancelled at the last minute, and as we had this free time, we used it to record this track.
You seem to be a very special and significant band for your label, Les Acteurs de l'ombre Productions. How important is it for you to work with a label, which is French and also has such musical profile, very much connected with more avantgarde side of black metal? I, from my point of view, must say they seem to be doing a great job, when promoting their bands!
Our relation with them is really awesome. It's not only because they put money on the table. They are supportive whatever we want to do and that's really great and comfortable. I really think you can't have this kind of relationship with other labels, especially bigger ones. Gerald who runs the label and Romain who handle physical production are great guys and we are very lucky to know and work with this kind of people.
If you were about to record a video for a song from new album, which one would you choose and why? And more so, what would it look like?
We would love to make a music video, but it's a real budget and it's difficult to find the right people to do that. I don't know which one we would pick, but it would definitely be an animated movie, because we think that is the best way to transcribe everything.
You’re quite active live band, playing tour with Regarde les Hommes Tomber or bigger events like Roadburn. What feelings do you have about these gigs you’ve played so far? Any funny or especially worthy to mention stories from them?
We haven't been that much active so far, but it's becoming easier to tour for us. That's great, but as we all have a full time job beside this band, we'll never be a full time touring band. We had the chance to play in great festivals like Hellfest or Roadburn and that were our greatest experiences as a band. It feels great to be treated like a professional band. And there are no stories I can think of (at least, no one I can tell...).
Bands like yours, Paramnesia and Regarde les Hommes Tomber have certainly brought a new quality / sound into the metal scene. Obviously there are also some older acts like Agalloch, Wolves In the Throne Room, Alcest and so and on… But tell me, what do you think of all this? Do you feel like something special has been brought into life?
The bands you mention are great. We're definitely huge fans of Wolves In the Throne Room. Like I was saying, they are the kind of bands who doesn't limit themselves and that's what we really like about them.