The Bearded Russian returns, this time with french sludge/shoegaze masters Year of No Light. We talked about touring,inspirations, the french scene and a tiny island, that goes a lot deeper than expected.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us what Year of No Light is all about?
Johan - We started the band in 2001 with the intention of playing slow, heavy and celestial music. We had some line-up changes, released a demo in 2004, a first album ‘Nord’ in 2006, several splits, a live CD @ Roadburn festival… and now we are back with our second album ‘Ausserwelt’.
Your line-up changed since the release of your debut LP, "Nord". What happened?
Johan - Our singer decided to leave the band, hence it was a good opportunity to make all the changes we had in mind without having the time to do it as we were committed to play shows. Shiran from Monarch arrived at the 3rd guitar & Mathieu from Aeroflot arrived at the second drum kit + keyboards.
You guys played at Roadburn, one of the biggest festivals in Europe. What can you tell us about it?
Johan - It was incredible to be invited to play there. Lots of famous bands, friends from all over Europe, crazy backline for a huge sound & hazed atmosphere…
"Ausserwelt", your new album, just came out. What are the main ideas behind it?
Johan - Recording the new songs we had with the new line-up to tour with a record corresponding to what we play now.
Pierre - A celebration of the sensitive world through the medium of our amps. A down tuned detestation of modernity. The smell of the woods after a heavy rain, the coldness of a gun after a heavy night. More drugs, more volume, less life.
What does the title and artwork represent?
Mathieu - Briefly, it is related to the “beyond”. You can see it as theological or metaphysical. We wanted the tracks and the album to be introspective and tripping, like a journey into dark paths of the subconscious or into some long ago forgotten worlds and human feelings. It can also be the perfect soundtrack to your last car ride, in deep deep night, hypnotized by kinetic energy and with a wall right in front of you.
Johan - A record is more than just music. Artwork is totally part of it. It’s like adding another dimension to the record and a way to go further.
Mathieu - Greg Vezon, the drawer, was fond of Arnold Böklin’s “Insel der Toten“... And this idea was totally okay with our vision of the album... So he gave us his great version of this incredible painting, with a kind of „Black-Metal“ spirit... What we wanted was this central point in the painting where there’s a light that you can follow, a light which attracts you, but in no way you can know what’s beyond... It’s like an invitation to the unknown... It’s bright but also creepy... It’s maybe a metaphor of the subconscious, for the psyche... So...you’ll be on your own in these woods, and even if the island looks pretty tiny, it reveals itself as very, very deep...
Your debut,"Nord", sounded like a mixture of all things heavy,slow and dark with some melodic,introspective moments. Can you tell us what are the main changes between "Nord"'s sound and "Ausserwelt"?
Shiran- We wanted it to sound more heavy and abstract than “Nord”. That’s all that matter for me.
Mathieu - We just make heavy and progressive music and we really don’t care about labeling. When you look at what our audience looks like, you can see that it comes from Black-metal to Concrete Music. That’s pretty cool.
How did the line up changes affect the songwriting process for the new album?
Johan - It remains the same with more people involved, that’s all ! At the beginning we wanted to do also some vocals but in the end it worked fine without. Hence we decided to stay like that.
You guys seem to like stuff from the 80's, judging by your presence on the "Dark 80's" split with other french bands. Besides Joy Division, the band you covered, what other stuff do you like?
Johan - We all listen a lot of different music, it’s impossible to list everything but here’s some names :
Shiran - Iron Maiden,Weakling,Darkthrone Black Sabbath, Thergothon, Melvins, Ligeti, Angantyr, Morton Feldman and Entombed above all.
Jerome- My Bloody Valentine, Merzbow, Neil Young, Glenn Branca, Buried at Sea, Black Flag, an hypothetical version of Pachelbel's canon in D major covered by Ligeti...
Johan- Swans, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, Buried At Sea, old Neurosis, Troum, Fennesz, Emeralds, Unsane, Botch and the Orb !
Mathieu - Joy Division, Neu!, Metallica, Neil Young, Burzum, Steve Reich, Ennio Morricone.
Pierre: Bathory, Bolt Thrower, Debussy, Codeine, Joy Division, Pink Floyd, Born Against, His Hero is gone, the Swans, Low, Can, My Dying Bride, Eric Satie and World War III.
Year of no Light has been compared with bands like Envy, Cult of Luna and Neurosis. What do you think of that comparison?
Johan - I think it’s made by lazy journalists who label like that every band playing slow music with melodies.
Pierre - By the way, we do not listen to Envy…
How is the french music scene nowadays? Is it easy for a band like Year of no Light to find places to play live and promote your works?
Shiran - I like to think that we’re friends with lot of different bands and I can fell a real bond between lot of different French bands from different scenes. I personally feel pretty close to bands like Pneu, Gasmask Terrör, Overmars, Aeroflot, Aluk Todolo, Habsyll, Hello sunshine, Mönarch, Abject Object, Darvulia, Austrasian Goat, The Enterprise, Chambre froide...
Mathieu - I don’t know… It really depends… Generally we’re nice and open-minded guys… We use to play in really different bands, from 8-Bit electronica to Drone, from vintage-electro-punk to über-doom and we have really cool relationships with very different people from really different scenes… But in the strict “Metal” or “Hardcore” scene, there can be a kind of dumb spirit of competition with a very strange sense of “deontology”, “ethics” and some bad situations can happen with stupid monkeys of some (generally) bad acts… But we don’t care a lot about that, back home, in Bordeaux, we chill with friends from garage, pop or crust-punk bands and everything’s perfect… I also think that the situation is far away better than, let’s say, 10 years ago when different scenes were much more hermetic to each others…
Pierre - I don’t know… I think I don’t care: the vast majority of our followers don’t live in this shitty country. I don’t give a fuck concerning the so called “national scene”. Anyway, we’re not a bunch of misanthropic guys: we just dislike consanguinity.
You guys played in Portugal in the past - how was it? Do you plan to return in the near future?
Johan - SWR fest was a really great moment for all of us. Team, audience & venue were perfect. What can I say ? Of course we hope to come back soon but you know we all work aside from the band and have limited time for touring so we try to satisfy everybody everywhere we can !
Pierre - It was an honor to play at this great fest. We all had great times there.