XAON is a strange beast. Nott that they are a Swiss metal band. That we have seen before. No, it is more the vibe that they give out. Like they are hard to pin point. Don’t know how much wiser you are after having read this interview. Anders Ekdahl ©2016
Every band has to introduce their music to new people. What is it that you want people to get from listening to you guys?
-Hello! Thanks a lot to take some time to ask us some questions!
It’s hard and confrontational to give you an unique and perfect answer. An answer that will be right, correct and crystal-clear for every subjectivities that take a look on this interview and which would feed everybody at the same level.
We are some different beings isn’t it?
But let me tell you that we are of course and obviously able to explain how Xaon’s music doesn’t sound.. We have a very clear idea about it but it’s a more conflictual path to say how it supposes to sound at your ears.
For us, we wish to write to create some heavy and wistful songs with a lot of complex fragrance, feelings, emotions but where the melancholy, the futile wandering of a lost human being, the discomfort, the useless revolt, the angst and the feeling of powerlessness have to dominate everything.
Every of our song begin with a “simple”, straight-in-your-face riffing but it’s about the arrangement, the samples, the lyrics and the demented, theatrical and the lyrical voice of Rob that will give the texture, the musical fat, the hollow and emptiness of our music. We wish to speak about some ideas like powerlessness or futile wandering face to some existential quest.
In the songs from “Face of Balaam” EP-cd, the musical or the lyrical protagonists faced to some too painful or complex quest. A quest which seems as a Gordian knot: Impossible to solve and to stay intimately the same, in the end. Impossible to resolve and to stay hidden behind his pageantry and habits. A quest that needs some brutal maneuvers or inner realizations.
But what’s preferable?
To accomplish an existential quest even if you’re feeling complete but scorched, burned alive in my depths or to stay in these delicate, soft nescience of yourself, the forehead under the everlasting cold and silent streams of the Lethe that’s flowing around the cave of Hypnos and through the Underworld.
As you can guess, this kind of questioning opens the way for the numerous panels of nuance. This kind of nuance can be found in every of our songs.
How hard was it for you guys to pick a name? What had that name have to have to fit your music?
-To pick and to choose a band name is a very important act. A baptismal act, for sure (I’m certain that a great majority of musicians will support this kind of idea). When my colleague Vinc’ chose the name of Xaon for band name, he was searching a short, direct but mysterious name and a gathering of sounds that nicely peals. He explains to me that this band name illustrates for him, a perfect mix between efficacy, a short name easy to remember and above all, an empty bowl ready to host any kind of interpretation.
Xaon could be an empire name, a cryptozoologic entity, a machine that travels through the Aether, a tribal calling, a forgotten artefact, etc. Who knows?
Yesterday, I realized when I watched the famous and dark 1971 movie: The Abominable Dr. Phibes with the magnificent Vincent Price that the sonority of our band name is pretty close to the sonority of city legendary name: Zion. It’s unfortunate that we don’t speak about God benediction, mysteries of faith or Israel in our song because it would be a nice name but anyway, we will take advantage of this nice and cool band name.
Everybody is influenced by certain things. What band(s) was it that turned you on to the kind of music you play? What inspires you today?
-The sources of inspirations are very versatile for every musicians that walked into the Xaon’s forlorn garden but for myself, I must say if I have to think about images, smells, colours, fuel for imagination that inspire me a lot in regard of the Xaon’s lyrical world, I can evoke the beauty of the high mountains or a cold, cloudy, autumnal weather, the passing of time, the decay and the regeneration of Nature, meditations about suffering or about the loss of faith and death.
Very common, isn’t it?
But all of these things’ ringing truly in the depth of my heart.
There’s one more thing: The grandiloquence and the power of Art and Music.
For Xaon’s members, Music and metal music is like a vital maelstrom filled with its own energy, its own colours, its own smells and the voices of some living unknown persons or some-one who are dead for too long..
Music is like the Roman god: Janus. One head but two visages.
Music, sometimes, is simply music and sometimes, it is just bigger. If you want to approach in order to plunge your hand and your forehead into this tumultuous and never-ending stream, you must to fight against yourself, against your desire of comfort, against your bad habit and your pernicious and false excuse. To listen, to understand and to play music or metal music is like a test and you should be able to overtake yourself in order to enjoy it in its fullness.
More pragmatically, there’re some important band that carry on bringing to us some profound influences.
Some bands like: Dismember, Merciless (I can’t get bored with the “The Awakening” album. It’s a short but perfect shoot of Obscurity, phobia and what lurks behind the Wall of Dementia), Ofermod (with a more black metal vibe), Tiamat (“Clouds” and ”Astral Sleep” are jewels, mixing aggression and veil of darkness), Centinex, Grave (I’m really fascinated by the voice’s colours of the Jörgen Sandström’s growls, so it’s easy to guess that “Into the grave” is, for myself, a pure jewel too), Sacramentum, Dissection, The Crown, Entombed, Liers in Wait, Carbonized, Eucharist (Ah! The album “A Velvet Creation” is just majestic!) and yet too many to mention.. and we like too some gloomy, wet, grey, melancholic bands like Katatonia, Paradise Lost, Celtic Frost, Mourning Beloveth, My Dying Bride, Anathema, Edge of Sanity, Type O Negative, Saint Vitus, Funeral (the norvegian band!), Doom:VS, Officium Triste (“Ne Vivam” album is a pure diamond on an altar made of charcoal), Tryptikon and Paramæcium.
When you formed did you do so with the intent of knowing what to play or did you do so from the point of having a band name and then picking a sound? How did you settle on the name/sound combo?
-Yeah! Here’s a very interesting question, a crucible that would give some ingredients for an attractive meditation but in our case, the story is sadly simpler and less tumultuous.
I already played with Vinc’ in an old band and with this old band, when came the time to record a brand new album, we had to decide too if we continue with this bunch of people that didn’t believe to the power of music and metal anymore. I think that you can guess what our decision was.
We left this old band and we create Xaon in order to continue our devotion to metal music and no, there’s any link between the band name and our songs. Vinc’ takes his guitar when he want to work on composing some new songs, he let his spirit, his ear and his fingers freely work in order to find some cool riffings. There’s any cerebralization regarding the reach of our name compared to sounds that we’re playing. We only play that sound nice and sometimes, we just open our hearts and write some lyrics and play hours and hours. Sometimes, screaming with rage because everything already bore the infamous seal of the “too-common” or the “too-vain” vibes and sometimes, breathing peacefully because we know that we touched at the heart of something cool, nice, groovy, brutal and just: well made.
Sorry to be not able to bring you more raw materials at your meditation mill.
I believe that digital is killing the album format. People’s changing habit of how they listen to music will result in there being no albums. Is there anything good with releasing single tracks only?
-At the first sight, I must say that I’m sharing this same kind of point of view.
I’m an ardent collector and I have so many many albums at home and I carry on to buy some new pieces, day after day.
However if we want to take time in order to go deeper in this thematic, we must to realize that our posture of refusal isn’t maybe the product of its falsity but simply the product of our fear, anguish against the unknown, the new technologies or the new manner to consume some playful products.
I’m sure in the old days, when the prototype of car began to roll on the raw road, a lot of persons told how pure, glorious, good, “true” to ride with horse or into a cart are.
Digital format versus physical format: it’s a new illustration of a very well-known quarrel like it was for example, for the quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns.
Yeah, it’s right, it’s killing the album format, but humanity is extraordinarily able to adapt itself face to some new media. At the beginning of the photography, a lot of painters suppose that it will be soon useless to paint some panorama or some portrait because it will be easier to do it with a camera but as you can see it, there’s ever some painter and there’s ever some photographer.
This disagreement against the digital format of music could be a social construction too (social construction that raises us like some innocent, gouged out eyed toys) because it’s easier to control the music market when there’s some trace (trace, we easily could find with the physical selling) of buying. So, Society (economic side of Society, of course) tells us how bad the digital format of music is and rabidly it’s killing the music that we love and logically, like some innocent and hungry babies, we drink this fluid, well-presented verity.
Sometimes, in my litte life, when my heart whispers me some anguish about the future of music (or the future of consuming the music, of course), ringing to my ear, I have still a profound faith in the music lover (and I wrote “music lover” without thinking that a guy who likes to listen/buy his music track per track could be too a: “Music lover”. For example, as you can see, it isn’t an objective term but more a subjective stance. The words still have its importance) and the “old school” manner to appreciate an album as a closed whole.
If I would take the clothes of a person that it couldn’t be mine (“to become the devil’s lawyer”, as we say in French), I would say to release single track only is good because it grants to the composer the freedom to release the music he composed when he want it to.
A three-tracked proud composer could have the opportunity to release his work without to fulfil the ideal format of an album (the format: Album is a social construction of our times too: Monteverdi (the Italian composer, gambist, singer and catholic priest) in the first half of the 16th century never composed something that could be seen actually as an album of works (however, Monteverdi could be seen as the most famous composer of Italy for the link between Renaissance and Baroque music. He composed only pure and outstanding jewels of music)).
If a composer willingly lets down the rules inherent of the album format, he will have the opportunity to link only four songs together as an album where this album format could mark the end of a closed process of experimentation.
To let down this album format, it’s the opportunity to release some music without to get bored with this necessity to choose this bunch of non-musical elements like an artwork, something to make a booklet, to choose an album title, etc..
What could be seen as the album’s ideal settings, the ideal settings that define an album format: its duration? Its price? Its number of tracks? the term between two release of this artist? the content of its booklets?
What’s an album, definitely?
Maybe, a contemporary construction. A constructed idea and a manipulation that permits to wrap and put a commodity in a small tin in order to sell it at a particular price.
What do you think about these points?
What part does art-work and lay-out play when you release new recordings? How do you best catch people’s attention?
-We met in Xaon (like in some other bands. it isn’t our private problem) a little conflict about the “artistic package” surrounding our music because Rob, Vinc’ and me appreciate some very different graphical arts (we must not forget that if you want to be in a band, you have to be able to work with your imagination, to play with an instrument or write some cool lyrics but not necessarily to like the visual art or to share the same point of view about: what makes a cover, attractive or nice?). It was very conflictual to find an artist who gathers, musters the three Xaon members in the same point and the artist called: Erik Burton Kirchner did very well (http://www.erikkirchner.com/)!
Obviously, a music genre carries with it, its own visual topoi, cliché. Topoi that we will be seen tapped and exploited on the great majority of cover that meet our eyes. I know that popular music like Black metal lives some surprising discoveries in regards of the cover-art where suddenly, a lot of black metal formations sing the praise and use some indian/indo-aryan and sanskrit typographies and arts in order to strengthen the mystical aura all around their music. I didn’t except this and I was very joyful when I discovered these first visual sketches. It was a nice blow of fresh air.
Sometimes, I hope to take in my hand an album of great black metal music with an abstract cover (far away from this thrashy/too-usual/fuckin’ boring/Edward J. Repka-like cover or romantic-kind-of painting): an engraving on copper, for example (but with some gloomy, odd, uncanny vibrations, kind of vibrations specific to the metal music, for example).
Sometimes, it’s good to be on the floor of a very well-known place (hearing an album from Dismember for example with this kind of very well-known visual art from Dan Seagrave) and sometimes, you want to hear and to see something new (or less hackneyed), something amazing like this very first album from the polish band: Batushka, HomSelvareg, the American band: Leviathan, the german-one: Silent Thoughts, Harakiri from the Skies, Witchrist or The Ghost of Heritage album from the English band: Winterfylleth.
But when we consider the couple: Visual art/Music, the most important point isn’t simply the music for itself or the visual art for itself but the combination, the sacred link between them.
Has social media re-written the rules on how to promote your music? Or do you go about doing promotion the same way?
-I think that social media don’t change the essence of the music promotion but simply the manners.
The aims stay the same that in the good ol’ days of the end of the 80’-90’: focus on music, stay true and authentic, speak as a band and don’t use the band’s identity as a tool, a tool in order to feed your childish ego, be with the fans, as respectful as you can, don’t forget that you’re a music lover too and sometimes, a band “fan”, a groupie and stay very down-to-earth.
The fundaments are still very similar but keep in mind that it doesn’t seem some universal rules. As I already said some numerous times: we’re all kind of different beings.
It’s some very subjective point of view but I find these words could be seen as some shards of practical, “everyday” and humble wisdom.
When you play in a band, does that make you feel like you are a part of a scene, of something bigger and grander?
-Interesting question once again but I don’t know how to correctly and wisely answer to this question.
When I compose and play some music, I do it for myself and for the band where I’m playing.
Switzerland is a very little country and there are a very little number of bands that deserve a decent listening on their music and for the groups on the conterminous countries (or in the European area), I really don’t know. My brain doesn’t operate on the schematic procedure of compare a band with a bunch of other.
As I already said:
Music is like the Roman god: Janus. One head but two visages.
Music, sometimes, is simply.. ehrmm.. music and sometimes, it is just bigger, a more mystical, profound and ineffable “thing”.
Playing in a band, sometime it’s just playing with some friend, sometime it’s a grander act but no, I don’t care at all to be reunite (or to think about) in a large group of band with the same common denominators like: We have a singer who can growl and sing clear, we have a long-haired guy in the band, our songs speak about life and death, etc.. or to feel in “the right way of playing or composing” because our manners and our style are very close to some aegis, some highlight bands. I don’t need about it.
I will let the taste to reunite and to find the common denominator with my band and so many other band to the person that like to do (and who will do infinitely with a better manner than me) like: the manager, the booker, the promoter, etc.
How much of a touring band are you? Is touring/gigging still a great way of spreading the word of the band?
-Yeah, it’s an excellent manner to spread the word and a privilege, too. There’re so many excellent bands that they’re dreaming to play some gigs (and they deserve it above of some boring and well-known bands) and they aren’t able to play live because of some numerous reasons (or sometimes, the bigger obstacle to play live is simple the country where this band lives).
For us, for Xaon, it’s a real joy and privilege to have the luck to play live in Switzerland or in a foreign country. We’re really into it.
If we haven’t some full-time job, I think (like a lot of musicians, I guess), we will be in a tour-bus, playing hundred lives per year and giving all our tears and sweat to honor the people to come this night in order to do some headbang with us.
Touring/gigging world is very interesting in order to make a little sorting face to all of these bands that publish a lot of songs with a full-editing drumline, voice-pitcher for the extreme band, etc. while keeping claiming that everything are still some raw rehearsal and their unique interest is their incomparable live skill. Thereby, the gig is the great revelator, too.
The gigging process is an another obstacle to test the devotion of a band face to their music too.
With the new technologies, it becomes a lot easier to recording and to mixing (or even to mastering) at home or in your poor basement and to release some cool and decent stuff but to search some gigs, to promote the band’s music are still some difficult and complex exercises because it demands the intervention of poly-dimensional skills, proficiencies.
You have to sell yourself correctly and wisely, to be open with the different movement of the scene or the market, to do some good music, to find your audience, to be honest, to be true and filled with authenticity without to let you corrupt by narcissism or childish and blind self-love, you have to write some decent and attractive mail/letter to the promoter of the venue, to have some patience when you will wait for his answer, etc.. Some very difficult, tormenting and exhausting maneuver in order to spread the holy words and the music toward some new or already-conquered ears.
What will the future bring?
-More hopefulness, I expect and less tyranny and lies but about the band, you can count on during the Fall, in October, we will play in Europe for three shows in overture of a great band and in November, we will embark in a sumptuous tour, in overture of the legendary Sirenia, Týr, Relicseed and the Canadian masters: Unleash the Archers trough Europa for 18 shows! will be a blast! I barely can wait!
and after these great experience, we will work on some new material, as you can guess: about this point, we have already finish a new album and we’re swimming into our stream of thoughts regarding the arrangement’s possibilities and the capability to maximize the dumping and the implosion of feeling with the adding of some unusual instrument in the realm of rock’n roll music.
We will begin to record this new album at the very beginning of the year 2017, maybe, if we –as persons- are still alive.