French doom might not be the most common thing in my collection but FATHER MERRIN are here to change that. ©2015 Anders Ekdahl
You have one of these names that does not really tell what kind of metal you play. How hard was it to come up with the name?
S (drums): That was easy in fact ! When we started, I just suggested a few name ideas to the others and we let time pass until we finally chose this one. I like the fact that, like you said, it doesn’t give any clue on our style. It wasn’t planned initially, but this name also turned out to combine the religious symbolism that fits so well to doom metal and our passion for cinema. And of course, names referring to real or imaginary people are a bit mysterious.
Could you give us a short introduction to the band?
S: FATHER MERRIN was born at the end of 2009, a few months after the demise of CIRCLE OF HATE, a doom / death metal act in which A (now vocalist, but on the guitar back then), The Unknown (guitar) and myself were playing. It was obvious that our new band would play slow music, because that’s what we love, but we also didn’t want to set ourselves any musical limit, which was, for us, the main mistake to avoid repeating. We quickly found J on bass and began playing gigs.
J (bass): And this was a relief for me to find, at last, a band fitting my desires. I began to despair!
S: Our EP All is well that ends in Hell was recorded during the summer of 2013 and saw the light of day in may 2014. That’s when we began playing live with JB as a second guitarist. We still have a couple of gigs ahead, and are also working on new material.
What would you say have been the single greatest influence on your sound?
S: Tough question! If you speak of musical influences, I can’t give only one name. That’s why we simply say that people who are into bands like CATHEDRAL, ASPHYX, CROWBAR, CELTIC FROST / TRIPTYKON or even CANDLEMASS may enjoy what we play.
J: Even though these bands are appreciated to different degrees inside FATHER MERRIN, these names are indeed the most cited to describe our music.
S: But if your question was about one thing / fact that influenced us, I would say our music is simply close to what we are as persons. I don’t know if it’s the case everywhere, but in France, there is a growing mistake about doom metal, which people tend to see like stoner rock or psyche music, kind of a new “flower power” thing. For me doom metal is exactly the opposite of that. It’s an expression of pain, misery, discomfort… And as you can read inside the artwork for MOURNFUL CONGREGATION’s The June Frost, “Doom is for those whose hearts beat slower”. That doesn’t mean we can’t include other musical elements, to keep the listener’s attention for example.
What is the extreme metal scene like in your area? Do you feel that you are a part of a scene?
S: There is a lot of good bands nearby, be it in extreme metal with HERPES (old-school death metal – still active?) or older ones like the mighty MORTUARY (death metal) and DEPRAVED (death / grindcore). In more doom-oriented stuf we have AVERYSADSTORY and SVRTR among others… You can attend good shows quite often. Sadly though, the audience is rarely large. Regarding FATHER MERRIN, we aren’t based in a big city where band members and gig organizers are often the same people. Nevertheless we have good relationships with some promoters and bands around, so I think you can name it being part of a scene indeed.
J: I don’t share this feeling of being part of a specific scene, but it’s probably due to the geographical distance between S and me. But we begin to build more or less concrete connections with other French doom metal acts like SVRTR, BARABBAS, CALDERA or HUATA… It would be very good for FATHER MERRIN to explore this direction, being part of coherent bills, spreading our name wider among the French doom metal scene and beyond. Nevertheless, our respective schedules do not allow us to be very productive, which can be a hindrance to our impulses. We are currently in the process of remedying it! But to answer your initial question, the scene here is dominated by heavy metal, death / brutal death metal, or grindcore with bands like BLOCKHEADS…
Something I have often wondered about is if you feel that you are part of something bigger and greater when you play in a band, that you are part of a movement sort of?
J: I feel that the sense of belonging to a movement or something of the sort usually depends on age . As he gets older, man becomes increasingly individualistic , that’s his nature…
S: I think it depends on the ambitions of the band, its goals. For instance many bands in hardcore or grindcore spread a social or political message. I guess they can feel they form a kind of “wave” with others if their messages are similar. In our case, I don’t have that feeling that FATHER MERRIN is part of a movement because, as I said, we are somewhat geographically isolated , and our style is a little crossbred : we are too extreme compared to trendy stoner rock bands , but we do not play old-school doom metal either .Of course we are aware that there is a renewed interest for the entire genre , and there are band s we feel close with , but it’s more about the people than a stylistic movement.
When you play the sort of metal you play I guess you cannot have birds and bees on the cover of your album? What is a great album cover to you?
J: I was reading an interview of HELMET’s Page Hamilton the other day, he was speaking about the 1994 album Betty and said he wanted an artwork in total contrast with the image of his band. It’s an approach I totally agree with. But to answer your question, given the state of the planet, associating birds, bees and Doom doesn’t seem incompatible to me.
S: For me a good cover makes an all with the other aspects of the band: the music of course, but also the videos if there are some etc. A cover must appeal the curiosity also, so that you want to hear the music when you see it. The fact it must fit the criterias of the musical genre is bullshit! And of course the aesthetic must please the band because you make music for yourself above all. The fact it pleases others is just a matter of tastes, you can’t satisfy everyone. Almost a year after it’s release, we are still very happy with the cover of our EP, with the only regret that we didn’t manage to have it on vinyl!
What is your opinion on digital verses physical? Is digital killing music?
S: Personally I don’t think so. To me music is greater than the format. Of course I prefer my collection of CD’s / vinyls / tapes than shitty MP3 thing, and I feel a bit of nostalgia when I remember good old days when you could easily find records stores. But hey, we still have the sound, right? And I’m also happy to have a pod with 100 albums Inside when I go on vacation for example, even though sound quality is not as good. Anyway you have to deal with it, it’s the march of time! I don’t understand people who worship a format just for the sake of looking old-school…
J: I really feel that digital has definitely reduced the music to the state of a pure consumer product that is bought (or not) and thrown away before the “consumer” has taken the time to appreciate it. But that’s how our societies work…
S: I agree as I believe that it’s not the digital format which is to blame, but the whole system nowadays. D igital only answers current “needs” : everything must be quick and easy.But that is another debate, a neverending one!
What kind live scene is there for bands like yours?
S: It’s hard obviously! Of course we prefer coherent bills as said previously, but there aren’t so many. When we’re on a bill with bands playing other genres we are often seen as bizarre, but it’s still better than not being seen at all. We manage to play a few gigs per year which is not so bad regarding our style and localisation. Earlier this year we achieved playing our first concert in a foreign country, Germany, but the snow ruined it all!
When you play live is it a happening or do you see it more as a party?
S: Both . During our concerts, we try to create a dark atmosphere, mixing slowness and brutality , so we consider this as a kind of happening, especially since we do not play veryoften on stage. But we enjoy it so much that it’s always a party for the band too , especially after the gig!
J: And it isalso an opportunity for us tomeet outside the usual rehearsal context to talk, share,eat and drink. Inside the band and withother people too,this is goodopportunity tomeet people.
What would you like to see the future bring?
S: We’d like to have a little more opportunities to play live, with good stage conditions and interesting bills. But keeping on finding gigs would already be an achievement you know! As I said we are also writing new material and would like to release something during 2016. Anyway we’d like to thank you for this interview, and every reader that reaches the end right now! Come check out the band and stay doomed!!!