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The music has to throw pictures in the mind of the listeners and drive them to a powerful and emotional journey

Interview with Monolithe.

Some releases stick out of the mass in quite a stunning way. These special albums do not show their full beauty on the first spin, instead they weave a tight net of mystery, dreams and inspiration that slowly but surely draws you into a completely different world beyond the mundane troubles of this prosaic existence. Like a hidden portal, such albums must be discovered, and while the process might be long and exhausting, the reward outshines the effort. "Monolithe I", the debut of the french doom project Monolithe, is such an exotic and beautiful album. But who are the people that create such rare gems? Doom-metal.com talked to Monolithe's mastermind Sylvain Bégot…

Sylvain, you're not new to the music scene. Please tell me a bit about your past endeavours.


"Well I have another band, Anthemon, which plays, to summarise, Atmospheric Metal with a lot of different influences. We released 3 CDs so far and we are currently working on a new full length album, to be recorded in August 2004 and released the forthcoming October. I used to play in other bands before but nothing worth mentioning here. Monolithe released its first album in June 2003, and probably next one in 2004. "


You are active in many bands, why do you have the need for such a high creative output? And (how) did your other projects influence the sound of Monolithe?


"I don't play in many bands like you said. My main concerns are Monolithe and Anthemon, both are playing very different music and the working method is different too so I don't really need any other kind of involvement with other bands. Anyway, the point is that I "breath music" the whole freaking time, creating music is really something I enjoy to do so I compose also a lot of material that doesn't fit to my main bands. So I have some side/future projects in mind, but I didn't work so seriously on them so far. The concepts are there, some of the music is there, but I need time to finish the whole thing. These projects are mainly created for fun and to free a bit some of my "alternative" creativity. There is absolutely no link between the different sides of the music I do, if you compare Monolithe and anthemon you'll notice a huge difference on the level of the artistic choices. But of course, as I'm as the only composer for Monolithe and the main composer for anthemon it's possible that one may notice some of my writing style in both bands."


Please explain Monolithe's approach. How does the creative process work? Who writes the music?


"I do write the music. For M1, Marc wrote his own bass lines as I know him very well as a musician and I knew I could 100% trust him to do what I wanted. I can't really explain how the creative process works because I don't know myself where the music is coming from. I mean I usually write what comes to my mind without thinking too much about what I'm doing and then, when the basic song is finished, I work on the whole thing again and this time this is really a question of musical skills. Improving some parts, making everything streaming well, and so on. Then, some other things may change in the studio mostly because I start to have an idea of how the song/album will sound at last and that may have an influence on the playing or some last minutes arrangements. The self fixed goal is to create a musical trip, the music has to throw pictures in the mind of the listeners and drive them to a powerful and emotional journey though desolate, beautiful or strange landscapes."


Are there any bands that were an inspiration in creating "Monolithe I"? What was your main inspiration?


"I was not really influenced. Maybe I was, but that was unconscious then. I'm listening to Doom Metal stuff since a long time so the works of some of the top bands may have influenced me. I can tell you that artists  like My Dying Bride, Anathema, Unholy or Skepticism had an impact on me as a listener, but I never tried to get the same sound as a musician. As I said earlier, I usually write what comes to my mind, that's why Monolithe sounds fresh and new. I don't tie my music by trying to stick to a genre, my goal is to push away the bounds of the style by ignoring its rules and, once again, doing things like I feel. Concerning the concept, the lyrics and some of the atmospheres I created for the debut album, I was mainly influenced by Kubrick's masterpiece "2001 - A space odyssey". The story is a great reflection about mankind's place in universe, this topic really fascinates me somehow. I'm also a SF fan, so the books of people like Asimov, Dick or Simmons may be a source of influence in the future too."


Please summarise Monolithe`s history from the founding till the debut. And how did you come upon your label, Appease Me...?


"It may sounds strange, but Monolithe was actually created while I was already writing the first album. I had all these great riffs and ideas and I didn't really know how I could use them. So I tried to make one track of them. I got the 15 or 20 first minutes of M1 this way. I thought that this song was not really over, that I could go on, so I ended up with a more-than-50-minutes song at last. The concept and the name of Monolithe came to me by themselves, it was fitting the music so well and that was so strong that there was no other possibility. I planned the recording of the album, which finally took place in June 2002 but everything we recorded has been lost, due to a computer crash. We had to record everything again in March 2003 and fortunately it worked this time. The other members of Monolithe are session musicians, I asked them to play on the album because they are friends and/or because of their musical skills. I could have played all the guitars parts but I also thought that it would be better to let someone else record some parts, so I wouldn't have so much work - and obviously stress - to stand, and also because I thought it could be cool to work with some of my mates.
Concerning Appease Me…, they contacted me because they were interested in the originality and the unique aspect of Monolithe's music. The label managers are themselves musicians in a very creative and uncompromising band so we could only get well. Their concern is the music, only the music, so all my wishes as an artist were respected when they had to send the master CD of "Monolithe I" to the factory. I'm not sure any other label would have taken such a risk as "Monolithe I" is an album that can appeal only to people truly dedicated to music with no mass consuming behaviour. I mean, you can't listen to the album for the first time and understand it, that's impossible. And of course not everyone is ready to get into such a long track. It needs a total involvement and several listens. On the other hand, the satisfaction is much bigger at last, when you start to get familiar with the music. We're talking about Music, not about manufactured products. "


All members of Monolithe also play in other bands. Is Monolithe "just" a side project? How serious is Monolithe?


"Monolithe is technically a side-project but not "just" a side-project. It's a very important part of my musical activities. The music of M1 is quite an achievement, it was a lot of work and passion for me, it's not a one shot made for fun. I already have in mind the number of albums I wish to create to fulfil the concept. That's a big challenge, a very serious one. Every new album will take a different path, some of them will probably be quite experimental. Concerning the other members, as I said earlier, they are session musicians. The line-up may change some day, if the music requires other kind of interprets. Monolithe is a studio band so we don't rehearse or see each others often like a typical band."


On the backside of the digipak of M1, there is a quote: "Dieu n'est qu'un mot rêvé pour expliquer le monde" (God is only a word, dreamed in order to explain the world). Who said that, why did you put it there and what does the quote mean to you?


"It's a quote from Alphonse de Lamartine. He was a novelist and a poet. A better translation in English would be "God is the perfect word to explain the world", as it's obviously what it really means. In short, this quote says that God is the easy explanation to everything mankind can't understand, the excuse to its ignorance. This quote gives some clues about the whole Monolithe concept. For example the fact that men could be surprised about their own origins, being too different than what they could imagine. But I don't want to say too much right now, I think it's good that people wonder why  it's there."


A new Monolithe release is already in the works. When can we expect it? Can you give us any information about the new concept ? And what will it sound like?


"The recording of "Monolithe II" is scheduled for December 2003. It will be mixed and mastered in January 2004. I have absolutely no clue about a release date, it all depends on the label. I, of course, wish a fast release after the recording, but I'm not the one who decides such things.
On the level of the music, M2 keeps some basis of M1 but that's a different album. This one is more sad and beautiful, more hypnotic and more melodic, with also some experimental and progressive parts. I really like it and I can't wait to listen to the final thing. The demo sounds pretty good so I'm confident that the final version will be awesome. The concept is the same, it's the second chapter of the story. And it's, of course, one long single track too."


What means Doom for you, what is your definition of Doom?


"I'm not a big fan of stickers you know, so "Doom" means nothing really special to me. I see it more as a kind of general warning for the audience, informing that the bands gathered under this banner are playing a music with some common elements, like slow tempo, crushing guitars, and so on… Doom-metal is a very vast kind of music, with a lot of different feelings, but it has its own bounds too. Monolithe plays Doom-Metal but it goes beyond a simple definition. Trying to stick to a genre description leads to nothing, there is no interest in doing what was already done one hundred times before."


What is your opinion about today's mainstream metal scene?


"The Metal scene - and not only the mainstream one - is more than 80% crappy. I buy very few albums nowadays because there are not so much interesting new releases anymore. Too much bands are just copying the work of the few creative ones and a lot of others have absolutely no artistic interest. I like to be surprised, to be thrown in another world, but it doesn't happen often, as the music business is spoiling everything. The problem is that the audience is not able to think by itself so the labels and the media make the choice for them. The situation is very bad, nowadays you need a lot of promo to get known, so even when a band sucks big time, if the label has the cash it will become a good seller. Usually Metalheads think that they are soooo different than the mainstream audience, but they are just the same. There are not so much bands who succeed in bringing something new, most of them are plain useless and totally uncreative."


And what is important for you in life?


"Music is of course a very important part of my life, as it requires a lot of passion, time, attention and energy. I also enjoy simple things you know, hanging around at home, reading, or spending time with my girlfriend is pretty fine. Travelling abroad sometimes is cool too. I don't like to party or go out to pubs or whatever, I'm not at all a social person."


Will the Monolithe fans have the chance to see Monolithe live some time?


"I'm afraid the answer is no. I don't want to rehearse and I don't really know how to make Monolithe's music sounds good in a live situation. It would require a lot of musicians and a lot of preparation and I'm not ready to get into that at the moment, I'm too busy with other things. I may change my mind some day, maybe playing live once shortly after disbanding would be OK when the Monolithe concept is over. But right now it's definitely no."

Thank you very much for answering my question. Do you have some last words for all the doomsters out there?


"Thank you for the interview and the support. I strongly advice people who never heard anything of Monolithe to put an ear on it as "Monolithe I" is in my opinion a great debut which built the foundations of a new kind of Doom-Metal. Some sound samples are available on the official website : http://www.monolithe.free.fr"

Visit the Monolithe bandpage.

Interviewed on 2003-09-28 by Oliver.
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