Music can be the greatest revelation there is. I know it was like that to me when I first heard Venom and Hellhammer and Bathory. Nowadays I don’t get that feeling too often but every now and then I touch on it, like with the kind of black metal that AU CHAMP DES MORTS play. Answers by Stefan Bayle. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
What pressure is there in releasing an album compared to a demo? Do you feel that1 there is a sort of pressure to succeed when you release and album, that it sorta is for real now?
Stefan : Yes, indeed, there’s a pressure when you release an album, and not a good one.The step of composing, when you work so long to do the best music you can, it’s like making it alive, it’s in movement. When you release it, it’s like killing the songs. After that, it’s frozen. It’s over. And it’s never perfect, of course. So, for me, the whole exercise is to manage to keep the spontaneity, all the energy and emotion of music without thinking in terms of sound or technicity. I want to deliver all the feelings and the sacred side of music. Of course, you can’t totally disregard the material side, a balance must be found. For that, you have to eliminate as much as you can the pressure in order to find the essence of the songs, the primal state in which you were when you created it.
When you release a record of any sort what kind of expectations do you have on it? Do you set up goals for it?
Stefan : When I release a record, the only thing that matters to me is to try to make an album that counts. Something which makes sense, and will remain. I don’t see this as a pretext to make concerts or a way of winning money or making a career. It’s something very personal you extract from the void, and it has to be the purest that can. I’m not looking for quantity but quality. There’s no point of making albums every year if it’s hollow, empty, and if no one remembers it. I admire albums like Monotheist from Celtic Frost or Hammerheart from Bathory that are still here. These albums have something religious, transcendental.
When you release an album and you go out and play live and people know your songs, how weird is that? That people know what you have written on your own?
Stefan : With “Au Champ Des morts”, we have not played live yet, so we can’t tell. But, with my previous band, Anorexia nervosa, we’ve made a lot of shows, and there were a lot of people who knew the songs and sang the lyrics. It’s not weird at all, it’s a great feeling, because, your work no longer belongs to you, it’s art you have delivered to the world, and it lives on his own way. After killing the songs by recording it, it’s a kind of new birth.
Do you feel that you have to follow in the footsteps of the last album for a new when it comes to lyrics and art work for everything so that those that bought the previous record will recognize your sound?
Stefan : That’s a good question because that’s where we are now ! Our first album “Dans la Joie” has been released and we are composing for the second, and inevitably, now, there’s a point of comparison. But by experience, I know that in order to deliver art and only art, you have to make a tabula rasa after an album, there’s no interest in doing the same thing. You have to forget everything and put you in the same state than previously and try to write with your soul. And it’s not an easy thing for me. So it takes more time than for the first one, you have to be patient in order to make real songs, and never try to do something “like” the previous songs. Concerning the sound, I don’t care, that’s the music which dictates the sound, not the other way. If you have a strong identity, no matter what amps or guitars you are using, it’s always recognizable.
How hard/easy is it to come up with new songs that still are you but doesn’t sound like anything you’ve already written?
Stefan : It’s easy and it’s the only way to create music. I mean, if you write something that reminds you an old song, then you are just repeating yourself and you are using stereotypes. That’s ok for Thrash, Heavy or Rock’n’Roll, but not for Black Metal. Black Metal is a transcendental form, it’s a journey, you have to always move forward. Of course, there are stereotypes in this music too, but that’s only foundation. It’s like building a Cathedral, there are so many stages of construction before reaching God.
What influences/inspires you today? Where do you draw inspiration from? Is it important to have some sort of message?
Stefan : I’ve been involved in this music since a long time. So, there are some bands or albums that haunts me for decades now. I’m thinking of bands like Bathory or Celtic Frost, like I said before, or And Also the Trees, Fields of the Nephilim in other styles. That’s my background. But I’m also influenced by actual bands like Alcest, Austere, Year of no Light for the Black Metal part. I’m also a fan of The Devil’s Blood, In Solitude, or Dernière Volonté to name but a few. Otherwise, the inspiration comes also from our landscapes, our home, the link that binds us in “Au champ Des Morts”, this will to go further. I’m very attached to the symbolic, everything makes sense with a true symbolic. That’s the message, the only one which is important. And it’s for the listener to make its own interpretation.
Do you feel like you are a part of a greater community because you play in a band?
Stefan : Not at all ! Playing in a band isolate you from the rest of the world. This is something you can’t really talk about, even with your closest friends, it’s difficult, mostly if they don’t play in a band. And it’s hard, because when the band grows, it takes a huge place in your life, and you want to share this with everybody, but you can’t.
I think composing black metal is like a retreat in a monastery. There’s only you and your Gods, your fears, shadows, and sometimes, épiphany. In order to compose, I cut myself from the outside world. I have to find the deepest things I have inside. It’s a spiritual journey, and also an obsession. Nothing else matters in this case. So, it’s really an inner reflexion, there’s no way of feeling to be part of a community. It’s a ritual. Be part of a band is the same thing that a cult which practice magic. The only group you have is your band, I mean in the material world, of course.
We hear about what state the record industry is in. Then we hear that CD/vinyl sales are increasing. As a band that releases records do you notice the state the industry is in?
Stefan : At my time, in the middle nineties, even if you were totally unknown, you could expect to sell ten times more Cds than now. The record industry has totally collapsed. On the one hand, I think this is not a bad thing, because you can’t win money or make this form of creation a job, so, it’s easier not to get lost in the industry. Compared to the nineties, making music, is practically free and with internet you can reach the entire world. But, on the other hand, there’s also a massive overproduction, where important records are drown in a continuous flow of non sense music, which leads to even more stereotype and inexpressive music, and the loss of how you must learn from this music.The sacred knowledge is disappearing, and that’s a big problem. It will lead us to our loss.
What is your opinion on digital download verses physical? Will digital kill music as we know it today?
Stefan : I can’t really say something about this. I’m too old to understand Digital. In my opinion, there’s absolutely no value in a computer file.We’re kind of the old-school way of making music, with vinyls and CDs, and the visual and physical part linked to it; so it’s a bit strange to us to see that people actually buy a digital copy. But, besides the overproduction phenomenon, I don’t think it changes much. After all, it’s only a medium. The important is to keep the sacred, the goal, and manage to transmit this knowledge to the future. Digital is only a reflect of this times, I don’t think that’s the heart of the problem. Decadence, loss of values and knowledge, seems to be more important causes.
What lies in the future?
Stefan : The end of Kali-Yuga, and I hope the beginning of a new cycle !