Featured on IDIOTEQ a couple of times now, dark, sludgy, doom hardcore/metal hybrid VALVE released their intense debut full length record “Apnée” in mid 2015 and it was just a matter of time before a proper interview feature for IDIOTEQ finally happened. Released by Germany’s WOOAAARGH and distributed byFrench label Poutrage Records, Germany’s Dingleberry Records, Russia’s Opposing Music, Hungary’s Itai Itai Records, Austria’s Fall Into Void Records, and French label & booking agency Old Town Bicyclette Records, “Apnée” is a an excellent, diverse sonic adventure, drawing from all kinds of styles, including chaotic hardcore, sludge, doom, hardcore and black metal. We caught up to discuss its meaning, its translation to live performances and a couple of other issues, including the band’s creative motivation and the recent terrorist attacks in their hometown of Paris. Unleash this beast and see the full interview below.
Photos by Sebastien Saunier, RHC Photographie.
Hey guys! Thanks a lot for taking some time with us! What’s up? How’s this year’s warm autumn been treating you so far?
Hey, Karol! You’re welcome. Paris certainly feels a little strange these days but we are doing good, we just came back from our second euro tour to promote our album « Apnée », which we released earlier this year. That was a blast and we really enjoyed it.
What places did you visit this time and how does it feel for you guys to be on the road? Also, what feedback did you receive for the new material?
Well, every time we are on tour we try to hit as many countries as possible even if it sometimes gives us a monster of a roadmap. During both tours we did this year, we’ve played in countries such as France, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Swiss, Croatia, Italy, Slovakia…
It’s always the best time we can have as musicians but also as human beings. We love it for a number of reasons, mainly coming down to the fact we get to do what we love the most : playing music and sharing it with people. It’s always a pleasure meeting people from different countries and cultures than ours, and seeing them enjoy shows and having a great time together: we feel that people are growing more and more receptive, which is not something we were confident enough to expect a few months ago. We also love touring because we are friends. Can you think of something more fun than spending time all across Europe in a van with your friends doing what you enjoy most? Of course, driving from city to city does not leave much room for « traditional » tourism, which can get frustrating, but overall it’s just the best holidays we could have. As soon as we get home, we are stuck with that feeling of wanting to go back.
We released “Apnée” in March, and as of now, we only received good feedback about it, in the written reviews but also on stage. It’s very encouraging to us, you know, every new album you release is a bit of a challenge, and so far we are very grateful and satisfied with the way it has turned out.
How have you found that community of touring artists to evolve over the years? Do you find that it has positively affected you as an artist?
Internet, with social networks and musical websites, has considerably changed the way to tour for small bands like ours. Even if it’s still hard work (hundreds of emails for just a few answers), it gives us the possibility to tour all over Europe and meet bands from different countries. For example, we toured with DEAD EXISTENCE (London/Sludge) in 2012, because they read a review of our first EP and then contacted us because they enjoyed our music, saying they wanted to tour on the continent. At that time, we did the exact same thing, we listened to their music and really enjoyed it, so we decided to go on tour with them. Both bands booked some shows, and even if we didn’t know each other before the tour, we became good friends after 2 or 3 nights. It shows how easy it has become to get in touch with foreign artists, which in turn makes it easier to book tours and gigs.
Alright guys, so let’s dig deeper into the idea and concept of “Apnee”. What was the catalyst for this record? Also, can you explain the meaning of “Apnee” moniker?
Our first EP had established the basis of our music. It hasn’t been recorded by the same line-up as today, our influences were more scattered and we weren’t yet so sure of the direction we wanted to take for our music. Following the various feedback we got with this record and because we knew we wanted to have it evolve towards something heavier and more tortured, we were able to take a less confused musical direction. While concentrating mainly on those aspects, the line-up changes also brought some new influences to the mix and “Apnée” was born.
Regarding the album’s name (which stands for apnea in French) and the lyrics, they are the logical continuation of the topics found in the EP. An example of such continuity would be the song Sirens (off the EP) which is about the sirens’ melody (in the mythology but also in its meaning in today’s world), and the title track of the album, Apnée, which deals with being attracted by the sirens’ melody and diving into the depths, literally but also, in a more figurative way, in the depths of the subconscious.
All the other songs’ lyrics can also be read on different degrees, the common point being there’s always some reference to the depths of the human soul. In the end, everyone can make their own interpretation.
What kind of feelings or emotions do you try to arouse in the listeners with your music?
Most of the reviews we’ve been getting for the album deals with how the music is depressing, painful, oppressing, but we honestly don’t feel that it’s that oriented or single sided. Within the band, there are different feelings about it. We don’t listen to or play heavy music to end up feeling bad about ourselves, although there is definitely some cathartic aspect to it, we also do it because it makes us feel alive, or because of the energy it conveys. Our music, be it APNEE or our live show, is supposed to be invigorating and uplifting although the melodies may be dark and the sound thick and overwhelming at times. I personally think that’s what we’re trying to do, particularly live, when we play covered in fog and at somewhat high volume. The goal is to get everyone in the audience to blend in with us and to join in a celebration of life in all its aspects, both positive and negative, through the power of sound. In a nutshell I’d say crushing riffs are not made to crush the audience but to make people feel like they could crush any hardships in their way.
Ok guys. “Apnée” is a huge collaboration project between Poutrage Records, Dingleberry Records, Opposing Music, Itai Itai Records, Fall Into Void Records, Old Town Bicyclette Records, and Dwyer Records. I know a lot of bands struggling to find anyone to help them out with their amazing releases and on there are bands like yourselves that somehow manage to put it all together on a higher level. How did you end up putting out record with so many labels? What has your experience been like?
All those labels are operating on relatively small scales, so teaming them up has allowed us to widen the exposure of the album all over Europe, but also made it possible for us to release a much nicer object than what we would have been capable of on our own. The vinyl version is a gatefold LP that we’re quite proud of. By the way, this list is actually missing Wooaargh, a German label who has contributed a lot to the release. On the other hand, Dwyer records were not able to participate in the tape release as they intended to, mostly for timing reasons.
We knew some of them before, as labels because of bands we knew, records we listened to, or on a personal level, so we basically reached out to whoever we thought would be a good « spiritual fit »: the DIY culture came up naturally. And as you stated, we’re very grateful to have had that many positive returns from the beginning (we couldn’t expect better!), and for the opportunity to meet and work with these people. Our experience working with them has only been very positive so far. We keep in touch with them now that the LP is out, and they have always been very helpful when we needed a hand, especially for touring and will surely keep on being so.
Alright then, so what’s up next? What can we expect after the release of “Apnée “ will you still be releasing another record sometime soon?
We share our time as a band between touring and writing new songs. We can’t tell much about an album “sometimes soon” like in the next 6 months, but don’t expect us to stop there.
What drives you forward as an artists?
Before being musicians, we are all big music fans and I believe music has always been a major driving force in our lives as persons, but I don’t think you can stick at only listening to music if you’re a real music fanatic. You will necessarily reach a point when you need to produce some music for yourself. This is what drives us as artists and as a band : we make the music we feel like we need to be making. This is pretty much something necessary for us to feel fulfilled and accomplished as human beings.
From there, given we are already five persons to enjoy it, it’s a bet on the chance that some more people out there will like it, which makes it interesting to share the music by playing live and releasing records. It allows the music we first created in order to meet our egoistical needs to get a life of its own which makes it even more exciting.
Ok guys, lastly, I’d like to ask you about the recent migrant crisis and the recent Paris attacks. Do you see some consequences of this fear caused by terrorists in your everyday life and individuals around you?
I wouldn’t speak of fear, at least not now that it’s been a few weeks. There has been a couple weeks where overall lifestyle has been affected, people were holding back a little. Butpeople also tend to move on quickly, strangely enough especially with such shocking events. That’s a good thing. We can never know where and when such events could happen again, so trying to « protect » ourselves from this kind of attacks would mean to lock ourselves up at home. We would become totally crazy! We never believed in that conception of « protection » anyway. We don’t think people closing off on themselves can lead to any good. Maybe there has been too much of that already, and maybe it also plays a role in this situation. On a personal level, it’s quite binary really. Either you go on with your life as if nothing happened, either you live in constant fear and let the anxiety build up. Either way you have no control on what’s going to happen next, so you might as well keep on living. We still go out, go to shows and play shows…
Do you feel like anything is lacking in your government’s approach or the whole society to this matter? If so, what?
We all are individuals and we have our own opinions. Of course, one could guess the general flavor of that judging by our background and environment… But we don’t feel like VALVE as a band should be concerned by our personal views on such important matters. We don’t want VALVE to be labeled anything else than a music band.
Ok guys, so I guess that would be it. Thanks so much for your time. Is there anything you would like to add to the interview?
Thanks for having us!
Thanks! Cheers from frosty Warsaw!