We conducted an interview with Parisian sludge / post-hardcore / post-metal band ARMS OF RA on March 13, 2012.
Hello, guys. How are you?
I’m very busy because of work and the various activities I’m involved in but everything is alright, thank you.
Great, let’s make it quick. Why did it take 2 years to release your debut full length. What have you been doing all this time? [laughs]
We all have our personal lives to take care of and jobs or school, so it’s difficult for us to rehearse constantly and write. We took our time to write good songs. There was a song we wrote completely and even played live once but decided to discard because it didn’t’ fit with the direction we were going, so that explains why it took us two years to get going and release our album.
Please tell us about the beginnings of ARMS OF RA. What other band have you been playing in?
At first some of us, me and Pierre Alain, were in a band called DAMN YOUR SCENE. The name sucked but we played some metal with two friends, and then started to call ourselves MANSOUR. At that time, the guitar player who was writing all the material was heavily into Lamb of God. We never played shows but we wrote three songs. Then I left the band for personal reason, and the band broke up because the main song writer had to focus mainly on studying. Pierre Alain, Pierre, who joined MANSOUR maybe a year before, and Heddy, who just joined as a bass player, decided to focus on playing music influenced mostly by early Cult of Luna and named themselves ARMS OF RA. I rejoined the band a few month after at the same time that Simon, who started playing bass in DONKEY PUNCH after Heddy had to leave both bands to go abroad. Personally I sing in two studio project, MODOKIAN CREST with Slo from the black metal band SMOHALLA, and another “secret” project.
What’s the story behind the “Unnamed”? Why a man would try to disappear from society?
The story came to me when I read an interview with Tom Waits where he was talking about his lyrics and the stories they were telling. I had the inspiration to write the lyrics to the song Personnalité decharné about a guy who wants to be left alone and wants to rape his friend’s girlfriend in order to make them hate him. Then, I started to write the beginning of this story, describe his motivation which comes from being humiliated and having the desire to disappear, to have no social status that he would have to protect, no friends and no society to answer to.
How has the band dynamic changed over the last 3 years? Since your debut EP you’ve brought some musical changes, made your sound more mature. The “Unnamed” received widespread acclaim. What affected your second release the most?
When we wrote songs for our first EP, Heddy and Pierre Alain were the main song writers. I wrote my lyrics but the rest of the band worked on each song and tried to make them sound like Heddy or Pierre Alain thought they should sound. After Hddy left, the sole remaining song writer was Pierre Alain. He brought riffs and song structures but we all worked on the songs so the song writing was much more democratic. We all brought ideas to the songs even thought the main ideas were always coming from Pierre Alain.
Do you feel more mature with your latest release? What made you that?
Yes. We all grew up during all these years playing and writing, we know each other much more now and try to make things work out so that everyone is pleased with the material. Our music is more mature because we are more mature as people.
How’s your cooperation with Swarm Of Nails Records? Any friends made in the roster?
It’s prey good, we write the songs and record them and Kevin releases the whole thing. We are friends with DONKEY PUNCH, obviously, and also QUARTIER ROUGE.
Were you heavily looking for a label at the time you got signed?
Not at all. We released our first EP on our own and sold it to friends and at shows. Then Kevin showed some interest in releasing it so he pressed 50 copies of it. We didn’t thought about being signed, we just wrote songs and wanted people to listen to them, that was all.
Are you close with your local hardcore scene?
We played with a few bands in Paris but I don’t know if we’re part of the hardcore scene. We have friends in various bands like DONKEY PUNCH, QUARTIER ROUGE, HKY, (REMOTE), LOST IN KIEV, but none of them play straight hardcore. Even DONKEY PUNCH don’t consider themselves as a “hardcore band”, they play a music influenced by it but are not part of this particular culture. As for me, I do go to hardcore shows, but I like also rap, death metal, black metal, grindcore, sludge, breakcore, etc… and don’t consider myself as part of any of those scenes.
How about the broadly defined Parisian post-metal scene. How are the local conditions for a band from your genre?
As you said, it’s very broad. There are very few places to play in Paris that can accept bands like us. Even COMITY doesn’t play in big places even though they are local forefathers of this “post metal scene”. It’s not easy to play sludge, hardcore or screamo in Paris, you can’t accept to get any recognition or many people at shows. You have to play for yourself first and foremost, otherwise it doesn’t make any sense.
I went to the Asymmetry festival in 2010 and loved but could not get back this year sadly. As for Cry me a river, I’ve seen the line up but I prefer going to the Brutal Assault festival around the same time. This year will be my fourth time at the festival and I love it each time.
How many shows have you played so far? Any fucked up stories from the road?
We must have played no more than 15 shows and are only going to play our first show outside of Paris in a few weeks so I would not be able to tell you any interesting stories.
Where can we catch you performing this year?
Are there any recently broken up bands that you miss?
I can’t think of any. I’ve been able to see much of my favorite bands or artists, except MADLIB, so I consider myself pretty lucky. One band I would have loved to see is ONLY LIVING WITNESS, but they broke up quite a while ago. Maybe DESPISED ICON, because I always loved them live, but otherwise I can’t think of any.
Any re-unions you’re stoked about?
GODFLESH. I’ll be seeing them twice this year in Paris and at the Brutal Assault.
Thanks for your time. Please add anything you want. Feel free to tell a story if you like.
Thank for you for the questions and thank you for your time if you’ve read this interview. Please check out our new album and buy our album if you can. We don’t make any profit from the sale but this way Swarm of Nails will be able to keep releasing albums.
Photo by RadioScreamer.blockquote