Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Assent Interview

1.For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the band?

Sure thing ! I started this project in 2016 when my former band Human Vacuum split up. I’d been in it since 2009 and every song was co-written by the guitar player (Baptiste Bertrand, now in the awesome band öOoOoOoOoOo) and I. For the first time in years I was on my own, so I took that opportunity to do something I’d wanted to do for a long time : write a record entirely by myself. I had tons of bits and pieces of songs in Guitar Pro format lying around in my computer, some stuff that was up to fifteen years old. So I began to listen to them again, sort them out, write new parts over the existing ones... that’s basically all I did from March to June last year : write music. I recruited Greg very early, before the songs were even finished : he’s one of my closest friends and I knew he was a killer guitar player I wanted to raise hell with. We’d only done acoustic stuff together so it was the opportunity to get violent. He listened to the Guitar Pro files and said yes instantly. The project became official in June.

2.Recently you have released an ep, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording?

Man, that’s the hard part. I’ve been a reviewer myself for many years, I’m usually good at labelling music… but this one ? I’m lost. It’s metal, that much is certain. I’ve called it “violent progressive metal with groove included” on our FB page, and I suppose the most accurate thing I can say is that there’s a little bit of everything. A shitload of guitar harmonies, breakdowns in every song, every kind of vocals I can do (screamo, death metal, black metal clean, choirs, rap, you name it), influences that stretch from Soilwork to Paradise Lost…  I think the one criteria that ties it all together is my will to be catchy and complex at the same time. Loads of information, but in a package that will make you bang your head.

3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the music?

Dark cathartic stuff. I was in a pretty dark place when I wrote the songs, especially because the Human Vacuum split hit me hard. Every song but one is an introspection. “Remain In Darkness” is basically me yelling at myself because I’m fed up with my self-destructive tendencies. “Reaching Out” is about my compulsive nature, which can make me difficult to be around and got me fired from a band I really loved (One Last Shot). “Insomnia” is pretty much self-explanatory. “We Are The New Black” was originally supposed to be an egotrip, a “we fuck everything” kind of song, but during the writing process I just couldn’t get myself to write such lyrics and take them seriously. They felt ridiculous. So I twisted them and made the song about how one feels compelled to write such a song, how you need to have this “we fuck everything” approach in order to be acknowledged by your headbanging peers. “A Part of Me” is the exception, it’s the only song the lyrics of which were already completed years before the EP. It’s about an abusive father : I took the characteristics of a friend’s dad (he wouldn’t knock before entering his teenage son’s room because he denied him a right to privacy) and bloated them to the extreme. It’s good that there’s at least one song that’s not about me, it opens up possibilities for the future and I’m already self-centered enough as it is.

4.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Assent'?

This one’s on Greg. At first the band was supposed to be called “We Are The New Black”, but then I changed my mind and decided that this would be the name of the EP instead. So I had to find a band name. One day when we were working together on “Remain In Darkness”, he told me how the verse riff would make people headbang instantly, making them basically say “yes” with their heads. We then laughed a lot because we pictured an entire live audience approving us by nodding during gigs. Later that week, I was checking band names on Google to see if they were already taken, especially the name “Ascent” but it wasn’t available… and suddenly I remembered that “Assent” is a word and that it means “approval”. I had a bit of an epiphany there and then. It was decided.

5.Currently there are only 2 members in the band, are you planning on expanding the line up in the future, or do you choose to remain a duo?

I want a real band. I did this EP with Greg because I had something to prove and because I wanted us to have this baby together, but now it’s done. I don’t feel the need to write our future material all by myself because whatever I had to prove is now proven, and I want to play gigs. We actually have our first gig coming on March 31st, so the recruiting process is ongoing as we speak. Our live bass player is already found : it’s Flo Lemonnier, the guy who plays bass on the first song of the EP. I’d invited him as a guest to begin with because I knew he would join the project at a later time. We already have a session drummer (Loïs Arnaldi) who unfortunately won’t be able to become a permanent member because he’s already in, like, twelve bands, but he’s with us until we find somebody else. We need another guitar player, and I’m auditioning right now. Once we have a live band, I’ll try to turn it into a real studio line-up but it will take time. 

6.Currently you are unsigned, are you looking for a label or have received any interest?

A label will only sign you if you have a few songs ready and are willing to have them release your upcoming record. Then they’ll decide where and when your record is released. That’s why we’re not looking right now : the timing is off. Our EP is already out, and the writing of our first album hasn’t begun. But when we have some new songs we’ll definitely send them to labels and try to get ourselves signed. I hope we’ll have gathered attention in the meantime, for the moment there hasn’t been any interest since it’s the early days. We’ve only had one review as I speak (yours), we still have to play our first gig... it’s too soon.

7.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of extreme metal?

Well, Greg is a fan of extreme metal and he loves it ! It’s too soon to speak at a “worldwide level” since you’re the first media ever to interview Assent. We’ve had that one good review from you (and thanks a lot for that), that’s basically it. There are death metal and black metal vocals on the record, and overall I do think there’s something for every metal fan in Assent’s music. Well, maybe not industrial metal, there’s not much of this in our sound. But you never know : our producer Zoé H is an indus fan (he has his own indus band, Herrschaft) and he likes our sound, so there’s that. Or maybe he’s just pretending. He does have a great poker face.

Are any of the band members currently involved with any other bands or musical projects these days?

Greg and I have two more bands together : GrooveCorps, a nu-metal cover band, and Greg & Aurel Need Money (yup, that’s the name), an acoustic cover band. Both are in standby since my main focus is on Assent, but they’re the kind of projects taylormade for gigs. That’s the point of them : being able to play live easily should an opportunity arise. Greg also plays in Far Away, an atmospheric metal band, with Flo Lemonnier and Alex Esnault-Douek who was Human Vacuum’s bass player and also plays in GrooveCorps. We’re basically a circle of friends with 5-6 people who all play in, like, six bands together with different line-up combinations. It’s all very incestuous. I’m also part of a project called DirtyProtest, an extreme metal “band” (it’s actually just one guy, Alan Hurley) based in Egypt. The singer is a friend of mine, he’s French and got hired by Alan to do growls and grunts. He’s a very talented singer but he’s also the laziest piece of shit you could imagine, and he just couldn’t be bothered to write lyrics and vocal lines for the album because he was too busy doing coke off hookers’ asses. So I did them all. I designed his vocal lines, I wrote every lyric to every song, and he sang them. I also did guest vocals on one track. We both had a lot of fun and can’t wait for the album to come out.

9.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?

I think our future first album will feature more of everything. More melodies, more violence (I do want some blast-beats here and there), more variety, more groove, MOAR !! Actually there are only two things I know for sure : it will be written collectively by the members of the band we’ll have built in the meantime, and it will feature more work on the guitar sound. On the EP I wrote all the riffs on a computer, so I didn’t include at all the kind of variations a guitar player would have brought, namely different sounds for different moods. It was just “distortion, distortion, that one clean part, distortion”. I can write notes but I can’t replicate the mindset of someone who is used to work with pedals, effects, amps and whatnot, and even as a bass player I’m a “plug in and play” kind of guy. On the EP all the guitar effects were added by Zoé H in the studio, as arrangements. I’d like to have them be a part of the initial writing process in the future.

10.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

When it comes to influences it’s hard to tell because every song in the EP began its life as a Guitar Pro file created by 20-25 years-old me and then reworked by 36 years-old me. And these two guys are very different ! The very first riff I wrote was the verse for “Remain In Darkness” and it screams Paradise Lost because I was a huge fan then. All these guitar harmonies everywhere come from a time when A Predator’s Portrait by Soilwork was my favourite album. “Reaching Out” comes from a time when I loved both Korn and Dream Theater and wanted to create progressive nu-metal. And so on. It’s hard to pinpoint influences when the songs were created and perfected in such a huge period of time.
Nowadays I’m listening to The Scene is Dead by Rob Scallon, and the last albums that really blew me away were Destrage’s Are You Kidding Me ? No. and Madder Mortem’s Red In Tooth And Claw. Madder Mortem is my favourite band ever, I worship them. They’re finally coming to France in April and I can hardly wait. I’m like a child who’s finally going to meet a real-life superhero.

11.What are some of your non musical interests?

Greg and I are gamers. We met through working in the same video game store. I have less time to play now but video games will always be a part of my life. My other main passion besides music is roller derby. I’m an announcer for a French league, I do live commentary during bouts. It’s kind of a big thing for me, I travel around France (and sometimes Europe) to do it. It’s like a side career of its own, but music comes first. Oh, and in real life I’m also a teacher for kids with special needs.

12.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?

Thanks a lot for your review, this interview and the time you gave us. The EP can be listened to in full on Bandcamp and YouTube, so if anyone wants to give it a go please do. I’d also love for people to lend an ear to the projects linked to us somehow : Human Vacuum - we released an album in 2014, it’s free to download on Bandcamp - , One Last Shot, Far Away, Thanatic Eyes, Netfastcore (Greg’s former deathcore band) and öOoOoOoOoOo. Oh, and if you want to support a band, please use Bandcamp instead of iTunes and the like. They’re the only ones who give artists their fair share. Thanks !

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