July 29th, 2014 | E-mail interview by NINa
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NINa: Your "Robotic Pestilence" video single was filmed and directed by Chris Kells (The Agonist). How did you get in touch? Has this collaboration been extended?
Gabriel Duceppe (vocals, electronics, modular synth)
: Well first of all, The Agonist are also from Montréal so considering it's a small big town everybody in the scene gets to bump into each others at some points in time! But the way it started was that a few years ago, an old friend from university, Deepti Suddul, who is the photographer who took our latest band pictures, got asked by her friend Danny, who is the guitarist of The Agonist, if she could do some electronic sound design for their album Prisoners
. So she asked me to work with her for that, we did some concepts and all but finally, the band decided to go in a different direction before we did anything concrete. However, Danny expressed the will to make that happen one day. So through time, we've met every once in a while in events, we've played with them, etc.
Now at the end of last year, I've asked Deepti to help me to develop a video concept and to direct it… Finally she suggested to ask Chris to do it instead and showed me the few videos he directed prior to that… I was impressed and I really liked his style, we got in touch with him to that's how he got in!
So we hope to have him to direct more videos for us hahah! And as far of collaboration, I've done some soundwork for their new album, on a web video capsule and right now, working on some ambiances for their live performances.
NINa: The industrial music scene is well known for misogyny. Women are either portrayed as objects of sexual attraction or victims of their own sex - a hot famme fatale but bleeding, suffering, lost, bonded or duck-taped. Or a good looking doll accompanying men to bring up their 'masculine' attributes by contrast. Your "Robotic Pestilence" music video features a bruised scared young blonde who wakes up having a mysterious symbol stuck onto her chest. Can you explain this, please? What is the plot behind "Robotic Pestilence" video?
Gabriel: That is true and sad how it went down for the last couple of years. A part of the industrial scene has become the playground for the «douche-bags of darkness» or something haha! But joking aside, this superficial/exploitative imagery in this scene have hit males also in different ways… Maybe it's not only in the Industrial scene but a global symptom of the type of society in which we live where the surface is what's mostly important… However, a few people asked us that question and I'm glad to see that some people care enough to inquire about what is a serious issue.
So for "Robotic Pestilence", the initial idea was to have many people with a similar story than our protagonist but finally, with only one short day of shooting and, one location, it was decided to do it with one actress only. I've let Chris and Tamsen Rae (the fx/makeup artist) to take care of that side of things.
The concept behind the song lyrics is that some «robots», probably masters of nanotechnology are taking care of cleaning the Earth of humans… Somewhat. I'd say it's a hybrid between the Matrix
and Doctor Who Cyberman!
So humans fought against each others to let them be before those «robots» ultimately, turned against humans.
You need to watch the video a few times since it moves a lot and fast to see all of the subtlety. We see one of them in the shadow through the second chorus actually, implying that, Marie-Luc, our actress is escaping from him/it. So basically she would have been «branded» with our logo, that could be interpreted as the human resistance logo if you want and, somewhat, escaped from them… At the end she disintegrated in smoke, probably the work of the nano organism that were inside her as a result from her contact with them. So now, the band is in the same room as the robot… Is the robot gonna kill them or is the band gonna take care of him? Who knows? It's a theme that kinda goes with our outfits too ;)
NINa: You released Robotic Pestilence EP on 4GB USB stick. What other devices, gadgets would you be willing to use for selling your music in the near future with?
Gabriel: I think that USB is great because it's useful too… We're going for USB bracelets and of course, vinyl for our future releases. We do try to leave the CD medium slowly as an independent artist. I can't tell if we get a record deal what will be their take on that, or will they keep closing their eyes and live in the past, but for the moment it's the direction we're going for.
NINa: You've played quite a lot of shows so far. Have you found any golden mean to present guitar driven and electronic tunes harmoniously together? After all both need a different technical approach when performed live.
Gabriel: Well, we've solved as much as possible the potential technical failures by putting everything in the laptop. It increases the speed of setup and tear down and does not penalize us by shortening our sets because we took too long to setup. Also we don't look like jerks who hog the whole stage time and going over other band's time because of our gear complexity… It looks like nothing but having a good reputation in the music scene is very valuable and important to us! Maybe when we reach the level of having an official rider with stage size and a qualified technical crew to work with, then we could bring more electronic instruments on stage and maybe have a touring electronic/keyboard player.
NINa: What's your reaction when you spot a bunch of stiff audience members with their hands up busy filming the show rather than just headbanging to your music?
Gabriel: It's great because it's more footage weeeee! But honestly, if the person is there, I feel it's the most important thing. The way they enjoy their concert experience is personal to them and I'm in no position to judge or tell them what to do during a ÖGENIX show - I'm there to play music and have a good time, not to scold the audience.
You guys in Europe don't always get the distances here but different cities are often really far from each others and are REALLY different. You play in Montréal and people are partying in a way where they take care of how they look and don't goof too much, Québec city have a tendency to be genuinely crazier, then the small and obscure towns are intense and many people gets wasted beyond recognition, while you change provinces and go in Toronto where it will be packed but they are stoic like marble statues… But to come back to image and all, I'm ready to hop on a stage and perform, I believe I should expect to be filmed, taken in pictures, sometimes from very ugly angles, sometimes the video sound will be horrible or I'll just be off, performance wise but it's part of it and it should be accepted by any stage performers… If not, they should just stay in their basement and stop harassing concert goers by forbidding them to take pictures and videos!
NINa: You've gone through a lot of line-up changes until 2011. What helps you decide about letting a musician join forces with you?
Gabriel: First there's the skills and the musical vision… But after that there's a big part in the person's character, is it a «princess» who expect everybody serve them? A booze-head? A drug addict?
And that have probably been one of our weakness for the longest time, of being too tolerant because those people were our friends, etc… We've grown up a lot and learnt a lot from those unfortunate experiences ahahha!
NINa: Do you have any tips for musicians who are considering establishing their own industrial/electro metal bands these days? What should they expect and avoid?
Gabriel: I would to stay out of genre game and do what you feel is right for you… For the longest time we've been too metal for the poor and sensitive goths and too electro for a good part of the tough metalheads arrrrrrr!!… So I say, stay focused on your own thing and if you have something unique and of good quality, it will eventually benefit you.
NINa: Has the Internet along with the technological boom revolutionized music or rather decreased its value due to an overwhelming amount of songs and albums available?
Gabriel: Despite all the issues I'm about to raise, I can say that personally I'm for the liberalization and access to recording technology for the greatest number. However, that also means an increase in the offering and a diminution in the quality standard. I also believe that with the advent of social medias and the hyper-solicitation of people's attention, this has built a generation which is suffering of a nearly pathological attention deficit disorder, which means that they will probably not have the cognitive capacity to take the time to research and dig for the best bands or music deep within the the ocean of s**t which represents the majority of what's available today.
Also the speed at which the recording industry reacted towards new technology have quickly created a void in consumer's habits that was filled by illegal download, therefore, removing the value of our work in the general population's psyche. To me the issue is not the illegal download itself, but the inherent devaluation of music that comes with it! I mean, when I was 20 years old, I used to literally, hang out in record stores, listening to music and buying some CDs and records with my hard earned money, therefore, I personally can understand the value of music through real life experience, something I believe someone turning 20 years old this year will probably not grasp since the «buffet» has been open for well over a decade now…
Also, this decrease of concrete and planned revenues for musicians due to the lack of music sales and the multiplication of low grade home studios, makes the musicians reluctant at paying a recording engineer and other sound professional what it really worth, making many studios/sound workers, lower their wages at a ridiculous level and thus, hurt the other workers in the domain. Not to mention that compressed files lose a lot of its aural quality and created a lower standard of expectation from a recorded piece or a song. As an example, if you make a little research about the history of recording, if my memory is not failing, there was a choir of over 1000 singers who sang in Vienna for the Emperor Franz Joseph, if I'm not wrong, towards the end of the 1800's or early 1900's where people's testimonial about that said recording were in the range of: it's almost identical to the real thing, just like if you were there, etc., etc. But today, you listen to that recording and it looks like you put a headset microphone in the middle of a venue with the choir and a few hundred washing machines doing their thing and then, you play it back through laptop speakers… The reason is because they didn't have anything to compare it with, therefore no standards of sound quality existed. With time and improvement in sound quality, people's ear learned to understand and analyze more refined and broad sound spectrum… I feel that we've been going backward for some years now… Oh well, HAHAHAH!!
But don't get me wrong, digital technology is good and must continue to evolve and be improved, it's the mentality that has to change… It's still brand new in the scale of human history and people are just starting to tap its potential.
NINa: It seems that the state of organized religions - their arrogant, dictatorial approach towards other beliefs or non-religious people, remains an inspiration for your song themes. There's been a rise of slaughter in the name of religion world-wide. Why has it been so difficult to make organized religions leave us alone with our own personal code of ethics?
Gabriel: Well, I find religions to be a really dangerous cancer that is afflicting our planet. The problem with our global consciousness and modern values of respecting people's beliefs is that religious have taken for granted that respect towards them but have neglected to look at themselves and change some of their dogmas so the respect is in both directions, not only aimed at those who are whining that their «right» of practicing their religions are being trampled… Here in Canada, with our charter of individual rights and freedom, embedded in the constitution, various religious groups have found loopholes and simple ways to take slowly more and more space in the public sector at the detriment of women's rights, sexual minority's rights, scientific research and non believer's rights. After all, God's supremacy is written in the constitution, which is an intellectual scandal by itself. Freedom of religion is protected in Canada, not the freedom of thought… Which means a believer has an advantage over a non believer since he has something that is to be protected while the later doesn't. I think that freedom of thought or liberty of conscience should be constitutionally protected, not religions themselves…
Another problem I see is that we see more and more progressive groups being hypnotized by the classic religious extremist victimization speech, making them walk together, side by side in various protest while the religious groups will just take care of «shutting them down» later, when the time is right and when their temporary alliance will not be useful to them anymore. I guess it is a backlash of the narrow and poor information we have access to and of the barely nonexistent socio-political, historical and philosophical education we now have in Canada. Pre-formatted information is being consumed like gummy bears, critical thinking is not encouraged in case it may hurt someone's feeling… Therefore, binary and dogmatic thinking is becoming the norm, even into progressive and socially engaged circles.
NINa: Any interesting books or articles that you've read lately?
Gabriel: La bataille de Londres
(The Battle of London
). Which is about some behind the scene schemes and manipulations by former Canadian prime minister P.E. Trudeau prior to the the British 1982 Canada Act
that made Canada able to modify its constitution without having to go through the British parliament first… I mostly read political, social and philosophical essays and rarely fiction because I find books to be so deep that when it's time to leave the characters, their story and their «life», it's like losing a friend or family member and it gets me somehow sad… OK I know I'm weird hahah!
However, lately I re-visited a book of short stories written by Israeli, now Canadian author, Ayelet Tsabari, called The Best Place on Earth
. It was recommended to me by a very dear friend who used to be one of my former university professor and who also happens to be the author's brother and all I can say, it's beautifully written, touching and deeply human, really worth the reading… More than once!
Buy music: Bandcamp
The Agonist "The Music Will Prevail" video on YouTube
(quiet music in the beginning of this short video is composed by Gabriel Duceppe).
Photo credits: Band pictures, music video actress © Deepti Suddul. Live pictures © Chantal Levesque. Questions proofreading: Mike 'Vesper' Dziewoński.