Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Sunday Conversation with The March

If you've been reading The Ripple Effect for any amount of time, then you probably know that we have a love affair with the French underground. Over the years, we've talked with Hollow Corp., Hypno5e, Abysse, Mindslaved, and today, we have the gentlemen from the quasi-hardcore, post-punk-y, low end driven metallic masters, the March. Sit back and read up on how these guys came into being, their views on the French music scene, and how they create the oppressive sounds that only they can.

Every musician is influenced by those who came before them, but what were your major musical epiphanies that inspired you to create music? What major musical moments helped define you as musicians?

 JB: Well, how to start? It's quite particular for my case because my influences, the music I listen to most of the time and with the most pleasure, is not at all "metal" kind of music. I listen a lot to 60's-70's music (rock, folk, experimental ...) Then, I don't know if these influences are strongly present in the music I write ... I don't think I'm the best person to tell whether or not ! Otherwise, about my musical course ... I started playing when I had my first pimples and when I listened to early 90's rock bands (people said grunge at that time) but I already enjoyed a lot more extreme music like black metal or death metal. But, it's the practice of guitar that really put me into something else than musical "brutality" ... I listen, as well, to hippie music, electro, folk, soul, rock (all kinds), some jazz, hip-hop ... the "Metal" cliché is OK for 2 sec but there has to be something else into it.

Sébastien: For me in general: grind, grunge and sludge. For Dead Ends and Blind Spots, Jean-Bastien is the main compositor (writer ?) of the guitar riffs. After he writes it, each one sees what he can do to put his touch on the ideas.

Olivier: Intense and emotional music has always had a strong influence on me. Bands such like At The Drive-In, Vision Of Disorder or Will Haven for instance (among many other stuff) gave me the will to start playing music. Then, musical moments are not necessarily the only things that put me into music. Life moments, introspection, writing can be factors as important as musical moments that made me cross the line.

Dead Ends and Blind Spots is a half hour of brutal music. But you guys added subtle elements of jazz and more “delicate” sounds to the overall aggressive nature of the music. Was this a conscious decision or something that just occurred?

JB: I would say that in a certain way it was done with consciousness for my case. Like I explained before I listen to a lot of music. Since I only play in this only band for now, I wanted to marry "all" my different influences. And well, it turned out that the result was called "post-hardcore". Then, more generally, there is no calculation on how we're going to put the different riffs together ... It's quite basic actually! We play, if it sounds good, we work on it. And after a while if it still pleases us we keep it! For the future we don't know how it's going to evolve, since the band has been under its actual format for about one year only. For instance, the new songwriting that we've made is different. We know better each other as musicians and we know where we want to go. Yet, the limit of this process is to repeat the same music that we've made; we wish to avoid that. There will always have a particular factor in the substance but not necessarily in the form. At least I hope so!

Sébastien: Yes, you know for Dead Ends and Blind Spots, I think everyone has put his touch but maybe it's too dislocated. Really I hope in the future we can make simple, beautiful and ballsy music. When I say that, I think about ANCIENT SEED which is the best song for me: simplicity and good riffs; a little bit of melodies, not too aggressive and really efficient. A LAST BREATH is a good example of our melodic parts; aggressiveness in a "progressive" way. I don't really like MONSTERS WE'VE CREATED because I think it's a good studio song but a bad live song. For the two other songs I feel between enthusiasm and neutrality. In fact I enjoy our first EP. The next one (!?) will be really different and more with a live sound.

Olivier: I really enjoy the result of DEAD ENDS and BLIND SPOTS, what we've done and everything, but as Sébastien, I hope our future music is going to be more direct and raw.

From where we’re sitting, the French music scene appears to be a burgeoning entity of massive creativity. Being that you’re there, does it feel the same way?

JB: For once we are not chauvinist! If you read most of the French musical press, French scene is hopeless and is 10 years late. There are some bands that I like in France: Magma, Revok, Celeste for rock music. There are way more in electro : Le Peuple de l'Herbe, High Tone, Zenzile

Sébastien: It's a subjective position. France still has frustrations, like the "US sound" for instance. So maybe we have a massive creativity but there is not a real identity. I really think other places have a massive creativity. Belgium is a good example. Their scene (AmenRa, K Branding, Arkangel) is really various and true. In France we copy the US and the UK scenes, but its normal, all the bands we've listened to are from out there. Now France has a really good potential in being part of the international music scene. I remember when I was a young boy there was no French band that could approach the power and the quality of the sound like in the US or the UK, but now times are changing.

Olivier: Well, I think we do have our own identity in many styles... We have bands such as I Pilot Daemon, Tanen, Celeste, Plebeian Grandstand, Time To Burn, and so on ... that don't have to blush compared to other international artists.

Is there a lot of camaraderie within the various bands of the French underground?

JB: Ahah that's a good joke! We cannot really say how it goes within the country according to our level. The bands from around where we are talk and support the scene a lot, most of the time on internet forums. I think there is a lot of hypocrisy on that point. Everyone runs for himself and they talk a lot. When it's time to contact you back to play, there's no one anymore. If the bands we've invited would have given us the chance, it would not be difficult to play. Still, even the bands that liked what we were doing one year ago (although it wasn't that amazing) haven't given their opinion on this EP. We prefer the Belgian state of mind, for the audience and the mentality of the organizers as well. People are less uptight and calculating than in here I guess. Then, maybe that someday we'll get the chance to share a gig with a "sane" band.

Sébastien: Not really! Frenchies are too frenchies ... When an association or a band contact another band to play with them, it's just to play on their equipment. I'm simplifying but that's not very far from the truth.

Olivier: Well, I just cannot agree with these statements, I don't think this is so dark ... we invited some bands to play and some of them gave us the chance (I got names ...) as well as some of them invited us without any calculation of anything ... Still, I don't believe anyone contacted us to play only in order to play on our equipment or anything ... This is not a plot, we are not martyrs ... It even happened to us to meet great and involved people ... I don't know why my folks are so pessimistic ... Maybe things could be better but I don't think this is so bad ... Maybe we should look at ourselves in the mirror before talking ...

What do you see as being the biggest obstacle in getting your music heard in some of the more major markets, such as the U.S.?

JB: Just by the fact there are tons of bands whose music is superior to ours. Moreover, I guess that not many countries get interested in France.

Sébastien: The obstacle: we are French. Now it's different (thanks GOJIRA). We don't have the same structures as typical US bands do; it's different because we don't have the same culture and historical influences. We are an old country with an old demagogy. We are too much self-sufficient, this is the problem.
Olivier: Moreover, the music we play is not very "trendy" and we don't have a big communication approach that would make people know us more. But it's nice to see medias like yours getting interested in what we do. Spread the word!

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

JB: Hard question! Sometimes ANCIENT SEED, sometimes A LAST BREATH ... On stage it's definitely ANCIENT SEED.

Sébastien: The sound quality (http://www.myspace.com/electrikbox), the Artwork (from myself) and just for me my bass riff on ANCIENT SEED with the P.O.G. stompbox (polyphonic octave generator). 

Olivier: I would put ANCIENT SEED as #1 by far. Then I also like MONSTERS WE'VE CREATED.

When you write a piece of music, do you consciously write from the mind set of being different than what's out there now?

JB: I'm not a good musician enough to transcribe what I really have in my head ... it never happens besides. I seldom have a guitar in my hands when I got an idea. Usually, I smoke a couple of joints, I play ... Sometimes it comes right away, sometimes it stays as it is for months and I come back to it later, there are no set rules.

Sébastien: Not absolutely.

Olivier: Trying to create something musically different and new has always been a goal to me. I don't know if we've managed to reach this goal with the EP but I think it's important to have in mind the will to make music evolve, as little your contribution can be. Then, you succeed or not but this is an approach I will always have.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

JB: Like most of musicians, the music we play has a cathartic dimension. It's is made to exorcize my past demons, my bitter thoughts, my anxieties ... Well, nothing that extraordinary! Then I believe that life and music can and have to be linked in order to be honest, and that regardless the kind of music played. And since our/my lives/life, our music, evolve between oppressive and ethereal climates ... Darkness and light ... My profession also helps me to catch states of minds. I work with mentally ill kids who are subject to massive anxiety fits and who can't express themselves. In some ways, I need to be a "catcher" to understand them and to allow them to feel better, to improve in life. So maybe I catch all these dark thoughts and they are brought out in my riffs. Then, what the audience feels ... I don't know and it doesn't really matter to me in exaggerating. We've never really had people telling us what they think at the end of the shows. But I guess that people who enjoy our music do it for the same reasons that we write it.

Sébastien: Fine sound, great sound on stage and to produce an authentic music for an authentic "recognition"

Olivier: I first started to play music to express the lyrics I've written before, to express concretely what I wanted to scream or vomit; I just wanted to have an outlet. So it might be selfish but I first play for myself and I don't really try to get the audience feel anything special. On stage I am as I am, and people feel what they want to feel; I think it's important for a band to be sincere. Shows are not a circus, this is not a theater play or anything, this is all about music, about what we truly are. Actually, I think it can be interesting when people tell us how they felt and lived our music rather than guiding them so they feel what we wanted them to feel.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

JB: I don't think that any of the members of the band has ever imagined to make a living of our music, if I understood your question. I think the band's plans are quite basic. Become better, refine our musical identity, experiment (for instance I would like to introduce some samples in the band). Make shows and improve our performances. I think we will always be motivated to play as long as it will be a pleasure to meet in our locale, to play together and to talk shit when we take a break!

Sébastien: Yes, you know I think that when one really enjoys something in particular, one is always ready to make efforts to go at the concerts, buy your stuff. Now it's harder to find good shows. Lots of bands, lots of gigs, very little quality. Good bands and good shows are difficult to find. Motivation ? Less and less, but that's because I'm a capricious person. Then I will say Yes, I'm always ready!

Olivier: To make a living of our music has never been a goal, so we find the motivation elsewhere. In ourselves, in everyday's life, in friendship. Like in a relationship, you never know what's going to happen; it could end tomorrow as it could never end ...

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

JB: My choice would be vinyl. But CD for the distribution. Digital when I don't have money, when I enjoy the music but not so much and when it's too expensive. Well this is economic crisis!

Sébastien: I like the vinyl for the Artwork capacity and to play Frisbee on summer beach. I like CD for the pocket capacity and to put it in my toast. I like digital for the transmission capacity and to listen to shitty quality sound No, seriously now I think digital is the good one. The music business evolves and music too.

Olivier: I don't know where that vinyl trendy kind of stuff comes from. It's not convenient at all but I must say that this trend makes beautiful items. I guess digital would be my choice; the only disadvantage would be the sound quality but most of the time you can convert the sound in high quality, when it's possible for the ear to hear any quality difference. But there are so many advantages: storage, availability, costs, and so on ...

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