Neige (Alcest) interviewed
** We interviewed Alcest frontman Neige for the March 2014 issue of Decibel [HERE]. The magazine interview focuses on Neige’s childhood influences, working with Slowdive’s Neil Halstead, and how the sea became central to the Frenchman’s inner and outer calm. The remains of that interview are below.
You’re kind of seen as the ex-black metaller. Or, the black metaller who won’t admit it. What do you make of how you’ve been portrayed?
Neige: You know, I haven’t been involved in black metal for a long time. Alcest hasn’t been black metal since the first demo [Tristesse hivernale]. More than 10 years ago. That’s interesting and, at the same, time it’s difficult. If you’re metal one day, you’re metal forever. There’s such attachment. It’s the same for bands like Anathema. They make extremely soft and pop music. When they play, the audience is metalheads. It’s good because it means metalheads are very loyal and supportive, even if they change. It’s also a bit difficult because the rock media doesn’t take ex-metal bands seriously. It’s a pity. I really hope with Shelter will also appeal to the rock scene. Maybe I’m dreaming. It’s great to have metalheads, but it would also be great for guys into indie rock to like Alcest.
The media’s also had trouble categorizing Alcest. Maybe it’s easier to call Alcest a metal band than something they’re not familiar with.
Neige: It’s so strange. I think it’s a question of the media and the way they present the bands. The media doesn’t take metal bands turning into rock very seriously. We have a huge respect for metal. We are metalheads. I hope we aren’t going to lose fans in the metal scene. But we aren’t going to compromise our music for the sake of losing fans.
Alcest’s music is very score-like. Do you have film composers you listen to more than others?
Neige: I like Howard Shore. I also like Gustavo Santaolalla, who did the score to Brokeback Mountain. I don’t listen to full film scores. I’m more about one or two songs. My favorite movie is American Beauty. There are a lot of great songs on that soundtrack. I also like the animated movies from Miyazaki. He always has good scores. [usually by Joe Hisaishi—CD]
Shelter didn’t hit me on first listen. Do you think people will have difficulty getting into the record compared to your previous albums?
Neige: Some people say got into it on the first listen. Other people told me it needs some time. It’s a grower record. I don’t know. It’s completely different from the previous album. It’s similar to the simple approach I had on the first record [Souvenirs d’un autre monde]. I think with the previous album [Les voyages de l’âme] we went very deep and very complex. I know some people will hate it. That’s for sure. But it’s important for us to do what we want to do as musicians. Not trying to think too much. There are always people complaining. If I did another metal record, people would say I am in a routine. That Alcest is becoming a parody of itself. What can you do? If you stay metal, they will cry. If you don’t, they will cry. The best is to do what exactly what you want to do.
Which song came first?
Neige: “Délivrance” was the first song. The composition was quite fast for this album. It was a birth for me to do this record. After Les voyages de l’âme—even during the recording—I was already on the next step. It’s not a very pleasant feeling when you go into the studio to record and you know it’s not exactly what you want to do. That you’ll do it in the future. There was an urge for me to make Shelter. I have been doing metal-related music since I was 14-years old. I really needed to do something else. It’s perfectly normal to evolve and to want to try different things.
“L’eveil des muses” is an interesting song. That’s the song that hit me first.
Neige: It’s almost like The Chameleons. I’m a huge fan of The Chameleons. And new wave lead guitars, like U2 or The Chameleons. This song is very special and hypnotic. It’s just one riff.
What was it like working in Iceland with Birgir?
Neige: The work in the studio was in a different context from our previous experiences. The producer is used to bands experimenting, so we could try different instruments, samples, arrangements. He was open to everything we wanted to try. The atmosphere was so nice. The studio itself is in an old swimming pool. They bought it and turned it into a studio. The recording room is the pool. It’s quite funny, I think.
And Iceland itself? It’s a pretty surreal place to be, actually.
Neige: How can it be bad? It was a dream. When we talk about it, Winterhalter and I think it was the best two months of our lives. We got to see a lot of things in Iceland. With touring, we see a lot of places. But Iceland is just number one! It’s incredible. I wouldn’t be able to describe it. You have to see it. It’s like being on the moon. True. There are no trees, I don’t know why. So, you have vast and desolate landscapes. They’re epic. The weather’s so weird. It changes every 15 minutes. Rain, sun, snow. The people are so nice. They are called the Latin of the north. They are very warm people.
But the food is terrible in Iceland.
Neige: We are French. We love to eat. So, we tried as much local food as possible. I tried the shark, but it wasn’t in Iceland. A friend of mine went and brought some back for me. I tried it. Oh my god! It was awful. It wasn’t well-prepared shark. It was rotten. It’s a cube of rotten shark. The texture is very weird. The outside is very mellow. The inside, the core, is like a bone. It’s just disgusting. I also had Surströmming, from Sweden, and that’s terrible. If you open the can in a room, you’re just dead.
I hear you’re working on new material. Already?
Neige: Yes, [we are] working on new material. In Rhode Island. 40 minutes from the sea.
** Alcest’s new album Shelter is out now on Prophecy Records. It’s available HERE in a multitude of formats and package options. Do the right thing and find shelter in Alcest.