Spiritual Instinct: An Interview With Neige From Alcest - Will Not Fade (2022)

Daniel Hay: So the main reason I’ve been handed over this interview is because my band actually opened for Alcest on your last New Zealand tour, and you’re one of our biggest influences, so I was given this opportunity.

Neige: That’s great, what was the name of your band?

The Dark Third, we played the Auckland show, which if you recall was in quite a small underground venue.

Ah yes, that’s so cool.

So I wanted to talk about the live side of the music first. I actually went to both shows on that tour, in Auckland and in Wellington, and they were both quite different, which I felt was quite interesting. Wellington was quite a meditative show, whereas Auckland was quite aggressive and a lot more metal. And I recall, you actually changed your encore song from Deliverance to Percees de Lumiere, is that something you do often, changing the songs to fit the room?

No actually, we never really do this, so that may have been the only time. Because we work with a computer project, it’s not simple for us to just switch to another song if we want. So that is strange. But yeah, I remember as you said these two shows were completely different. The first one was quite atmospheric and intimate, and the other one was intimate in a very ‘punk’ style.

(Video) Spiritual Instinct

It was moved to that venue last-minute. I greatly enjoyed that show, because it showed a different side to your music. The heavier songs, everyone got quite into it, as if it was a punk show, as you said.

Yes, but it was a great show. It was so much fun. People were actually doing mosh pits and stuff.

Yes I remember then fondly. One other thing I noticed from your live setup then was, in contrast to a lot of bands in your area of music, you didn’t have many guitar pedals.

No, no. It’s because I think having like 20 pedals is bullshit. I mean, you don’t need 20 pedals, I have always had two or three. Distortion, delay and reverb. I am then using my guitar volume and tone control to get different gains during the songs. I’m trying to do more with the least amount of gear possible, because when you travel and when you play that many shows, the more gear you have, the more chance there is that something doesn’t work properly. So we try to have very limited amounts of cables and pedals.

And for me, a song works fine just how it is with melodies, and all the rest is just to embellish the sound and make it even better, but that’s something you do more in the studio.

(Video) Alcest - What's In My Bag?

And with the new record, this is a bit of a heavier one, are you going to change any of your live setup to reflect that?

It’s more or less the same, but I am using a different distortion pedal, so the new one is a bit more metal. But the rest, the reverb and delay, they are the same. My shitty Bose delay, and I have a Hall of Fame reverb pedal that I really love, it’s very simple.

So onto the new album, which I’ve been loving recently. It is a bit of a heavier record, which interests me – a lot of bands in your area of music tend to either get progressively heavier or progressively softer. You’ve sort of jumped around a bit and gone from one extreme to the other, with this being probably the heaviest record under the Alcest name, what inspired you to take this direction this time around?

Yeah, that’s a really good point. I mean, we’ve already done the heavy band going soft with Shelter, so that’s something that I’ve done already. And this time it’s heavier and darker because I was in a moment in my life when I had a lot of anxiety and a lot of darker types of emotions. And it was after the very, very long touring cycle of Kodama, so I was feeling really exhausted. I kind of lost touch with who I was, because you are on tour, you are always surrounded by people and you’re doing very down to earth things. And I feel I lost touch with my real essence, because I’m a very spiritual person. I like to spend some time in nature.

And you don’t have time to get to nature when touring.

Yeah, or even just being alone and reflecting. That’s something that you just can’t do, so I had this frustration and anxiety accumulating. And when it was time to write new music, I guess everything just came out. In a very violent way, actually.

(Video) Le miroir

This almost feels like the first Alcest record with actual metal ‘riffs’ on it, not just black metal tremolos.

Absolutely, yeah.

One other style of music I’ve noticed in this record is at times it feels quite post-punk, particularly in the prominence of the bass guitar. You’ve mentioned The Chameleons as an artist you admire in the past, was that a conscious influence on this record?

Absolutely, that kind of music I’ve been listening to since I was a teenager, so it’s been a really big part of my influences, especially the guitar leads and the guitar sound. I’ve never really been into like ‘heavy metal’ or things like that, I’m more like an indie kid with some black metal. So my type of guitar leads are more like the type of guitar you can hear in The Chameleons or U2 or The Cure, as opposed to Iron Maiden or Metallica.

So all their guitar work has influenced me, for example the chorus that I put on leads. And I love the bass in post-punk too, the rhythmic patterns. But it’s very subtle, it’s not something you can really hear in Alcest’s music clearly, but it’s definitely there.

I think this is the album I’ve heard it the most out of your material. It’s actually quite a groovy record, which isn’t a description you’d expect to put on an Alcest album – for example Sapphire is carried quite a lot by the bass in it.

(Video) Les jardins de minuit

Definitely, yeah that song has quite a bit of it.

And obviously, I have to throw in the obligatory question about touring New Zealand again. You mentioned Kodama having a long touring cycle, is this one going to be the same?

I really wish we would go back to New Zealand, and I think we will. It’s a part of the plan, probably next year actually. That would be awesome, we really loved touring there, it was the first time for us and we have so many great memories and met great people. And the crowd was very good too, they were… enthusiastic.

Yes it was a great tour, and you’ll have to find a way to the South Island next time. Much better nature there if you need a break too.

Hopefully. Both shows were a success last time so perhaps we can.

(Video) ALCEST - Interview with Neige at The Institute, Birmingham 2014 ( Pale Communion Tour )

Well thank you for your time, and good luck with the new album release. I’ve been enjoying listening to it and I think the fans will appreciate the new sound. I hope to see you on the tour as well.

Thank you!

Spiritual Instinct: An Interview With Neige From Alcest - Will Not Fade (1)Spiritual Instinct is out on Nuclear Blast Records October 25th

iTunes preorder:https://music.apple.com/au/album/spiritual-instinct/1474788010

Interview by Daniel Hay

Having explicitly stated that the album’s recording process was especially lengthy and arduous compared with Alcest’s previous works, Neige’s return to a more raw, unfiltered outpouring of aggression emphasizes overtones of angst and inward conflict in order to purge the negativity and emotional plaque that inevitably builds up within one’s soul.. Spiritual Instinct presents a marked return of the more bleak, hard-hitting elements within Alcest’s sound while also maintaining the heartfelt melodicism upon which you typically focus.. I think I just really wanted to translate my more anxious and angry and dark emotions into this project because I usually try to always make a sound that is very dreamy and uplifting and otherworldly, but this time I had a lot of heavy things to carry and put out, you know?. There is something people like about us, and it’s also something we like about ourselves which is the fact that we keep the Alcest touch -- this thing that makes us Alcest -- but every time we sound different.. We have six records, but I think all the records sound quite different.

It all started because we’ve been on tour for a very long time, with Kodama , the previous record, and touring life is very difficult.. That’s pretty much what this album is about, the darker feelings that I can have, and on the other side, this need for something higher and more spiritual.. We have, like I said, a lot of different sides to our personalities.. It can be just to be a better person for the people around you.. Since this album appears to be a spiritual, self reflective journey, can you talk about your spirituality with nature?. Because it’s a very long song, and it has a lot of different riffs.

Und ich bin eine Person, die ihren Raum braucht, seine Zeit alleine braucht, um sich selbst zu finden und diese Verbindung zu Dingen zu halten, die Teil von mir selbst sind.. Aber ich beschwere mich nicht, es ist wirklich ein tolles Leben, aber es ist nicht für jedermann geeignet.. Dieses Album spricht wie ein dunkler Teil von mir, eine Seite, über die ich normalerweise nicht spreche, weil ich versuche, mich mehr auf die hellere Seite zu konzentrieren.. Ich glaube, ich wollte nur meine ängstlicheren, wütenderen und düstereren Gefühle in dieses Projekt umsetzen, weil ich normalerweise versuche, immer einen sehr verträumten, erhebenden und jenseitigen Klang zu erzeugen, aber diesmal hatte ich eine Menge schwerer Dinge zu tragen und rauszubringen.. Als ich anfing, den ersten Song „Protection“ zu schreiben, hatte ich das Gefühl, dass ich etwas herausbringen musste, das… manchmal sagen wir Katharsis, und dies war eine wirklich kathartische Platte für mich. Zum ersten Mal seit langer Zeit hatte ich das Gefühl, wirklich etwas aus mir herauszuholen.. Wir wurden etwas dazu gedrängt, ins Studio zu gehen, das es eine Frist gab, um die Termine einzuhalten, die wir für die Aufnahmen gebucht hatten.. Wir hatten sehr hohe Erwartungen und wir hatten mit jemandem zusammengearbeitet, den wir sehr gut kennen, er ist ein Freund von uns.. Dieses Mal war alles sehr rau und sehr spontan, also hoffte ich, dieses Gefühl im Studio wieder herzustellen, aber es war absolut nicht der Fall, weil wir viel nachdachten.. Einige Leute haben gesagt, dass es einer der größten Sounds ist, die wir je gemacht haben, dass es wirklich groß und kraftvoll ist.. Es gibt etwas, das Menschen an uns mögen, und es ist auch etwas, das wir an uns mögen, nämlich die Tatsache, dass wir diese spezielle ALCEST-Note beibehalten – die Merkmale, die uns zu ALCEST machen, obwohl wir jedes Mal etwas anders klingen.. Es ist ganz anders als die anderen, aber es ist immer noch sehr ALCEST, weil es in gewisser Weise nicht mit dieser Welt verbunden ist.. Für mich ist die Sphinx eine Metapher für Spiritualität und eine schöne Figur um das zu repräsentieren.. Das Artwork bezieht sich auf die Dualität zwischen meinen dunkleren und schöneren Seiten, die Figur der Sphinx spiegelt diese Dualität mit der Kombination des edlen, menschlichen Gesichts, der schönen Flügel und animalischen Merkmalen wie Krallen, Reißzähne und tierischer Körper.. Es ist sehr klischeehaft, aber es ist der Kampf zwischen Licht und Dunkelheit und allem, was dazwischen liegt, all die verschiedenen Schatten.

Is this also the case on Shelter ?. Shelter is almost like our holiday record in a way.. Neige: The show was recorded in Leipzig and I’m a part of the live band since two years.. Raymond: So how do you combine this with your work in Alcest?. We all know each other for years and there are like eight persons in the band, so a lot of people are involved.

I greatly enjoyed that show, because it showed a different side to your music.. One other thing I noticed from your live setup then was, in contrast to a lot of bands in your area of music, you didn’t have many guitar pedals.. It is a bit of a heavier record, which interests me – a lot of bands in your area of music tend to either get progressively heavier or progressively softer.. One other style of music I’ve noticed in this record is at times it feels quite post-punk, particularly in the prominence of the bass guitar.. Absolutely, that kind of music I’ve been listening to since I was a teenager, so it’s been a really big part of my influences, especially the guitar leads and the guitar sound.. That would be awesome, we really loved touring there, it was the first time for us and we have so many great memories and met great people.

Inspired by an out-of-body experience Neige had as a child, Alcest’s music mixes ethereal vocals and atmospheric shoegaze influences with a heavy rock and metal sound.. For us it’s much more than music, because I made this band to translate an experience I had when I was younger, and the music is kind of a small part of what Alcest is for me.. It’s like a sound from another world, you know, in the first sense.. And the bands that influenced me at first are almost the same as now.. I think reality is always subjective, and we don’t know what is for real apart from the fact [that] we see it with our eyes, we smell it, touch it, but we don’t know more.. MB: With your work in Alcest and Amesoeurs, many people in the metal scene would point to your projects as the first to create this newfangled blend of shoegaze, post-punk, black metal, and all that.. I will mix metal with this and this to make…something!” It just went very naturally to me, and now when someone comes to me to say they made a band after listening to Amesoeurs or to Alcest, I am so honored.. MB: You’ve had an incredibly prolific career, working as a member of other legendary acts like Peste Noire, Lantlôs, and Old Silver Key and collaborating with a wide range of artists.

Music wasn’t really the first thing I wanted to do.. I consider it to be just as important as the music.. Well like you mention, visuals have always been a part of the band’s overall character and your personal inspiration.. This time around, the character was a sphinx.. Kodama (2016), Cover art by Førtifem I wasn’t happy with the character at first and then I looked at this sphinx that was on the side and thought, “This is the cover.. It’s funny because people ask me, “What inspired you this time?. Neige: You know, it’s the first time I’ve allowed myself to put quite a lot of my inner darkness into the music.. Spirituality has been a very important part of my life since I was a kid and touring is really not as artistic and spiritual as people would think, even for a band like Alcest.. When it was time to write a new song after Kodama, the song turned out to be pretty dark.. This painting has been a major inspiration for this album.. It also represents the fact that on a spiritual path as opposed to religion, you don’t necessarily get answers.. Neige: I could say a lot of things about these guys.. Neige: This album is almost like a concept album about what spirituality is.. A lot of people to suppress the sides they don’t like about themselves.. Cover art by Førtifem

Alcest – Spiritual Instinct — Nuclear Blast , 2019. Spirituality is one of the more personal topics that an artist can speak about within their music and it’s something that is coloured by experiences and by life as it happens around them.. The fear of the unknown for many of us is something that can hold us back, however, with Alcest’s music there is a doorway to this place of wonder and Spiritual Instinct does much to unlock those secrets.. Duality, too, has long been a part of the Alcest sound; ethereal vocals are heavily contrasted with preternatural screams, shimmering guitars are offset with rich and heavy drum work and the images that these opposing elements create are indeed, of light and of dark.. Spiritual Instinct feels much darker in tone than previous works and whereas on Kodama (2016) there were shades of light that filtered through the closing stages, Spiritual Instinct is less hopeful in its execution - not that it comes across as depressing, rather that the emotions that are contained within the record are truthful and honest in their expressions which is refreshing, at the very least.. The colours that it evokes edge towards deep blues and rich blacks and the feel is less autumnal that Kodama , instead heading into the depths of winter and the boundaries of the soul and the constant quest for meaning that Alcest have been on since their inception as Neige’s solo project twenty years ago.. During that time Alcest has evolved from a pure black metal worship style band, to becoming the project cited most as creators of “blackgaze” - the melding of dynamic black metal with the layered effects and harmonies of shoegaze.. Alcest’s music is nothing if not honest and Spiritual Instinct continues that journey with bold and breathless strokes of guitar, a full-bodied drum sound and Neige’s instantly recognisable voice.. Gorgeous, cascading guitars filter through the darkness set forth by the dominating bass during the initial moments of the song while Winterhalter’s drum sounds push for space and Neige’s haunting vocalisations fall into view.. That unique scream of Neige’s makes its first appearance, however at this moment it is hidden behind singing, as though the shadow-self is making itself known slowly, waiting for the perfect time to fully reveal its true colours, baiting its breath for the final confrontation which finally happens in the euphoric closing minute of the song.. It’s this dynamic that Alcest are adept at creating and here it works perfectly; the light and the shade vie for power and while the song heads towards its end, the dual nature of the self is allowed to thrive.. This dynamic is something that is carried throughout Spiritual Instinct , and indeed through most of Alcest’s work (2014s metal-free Shelter notwithstanding), however it’s not an overused or overwrought style and where many can fail at bridging the two aspects, Alcest are masters of their craft and so the quiet/loud, push and pull effect works succinctly.. Harmony is key for Alcest and with “Sapphire” those harmonies and brought into view by the unusual, wordless vocalisations that Neige has used on several songs previously.. Alcest has always been a personal project for Neige, who writes the lyrics for the band, but Spiritual Instinct is surely his most personal music to date.. “Spiritual Instinct” is cinematic in its scope and guitars move in beautiful patterns while Neige’s voice is captivating as it carries us towards the inevitable end.

Like so many young people who turn to music, Stephane Paut — the frontman and driving force behind French metal outfit Alcest — felt profoundly out of place growing up in Bagnols-sur-Ceze, a town of fewer than 20,000 inhabitants located at the edge of the French region of Provence.. “It’s crazy,” he says on a Skype call from Paris, his adoptive home, “because Provence is so beautiful.. I didn’t feel like I was in the right place.”. Aside from drawing, Paut found solace in the raw aggression of black-metal groups like Emperor.. Paut has leaned closer to the Pumpkins than Emperor with Alcest.. And though he’s by no means the first artist to infuse black metal with shoegaze textures, Alcest always has stood out for its singular balance between sparkle and abrasion.. However, on its sixth album, Spiritual Instinct (Oct. 25, Nuclear Blast), Paut has crafted a particularly seamless fusion of black metal-style dissonance with the thickly layered guitar orchestrations of alternative rock.. And as utterly accessible as the melodies on Spiritual Instinct might be at times, the music isn’t likely to turn off discerning, pop-averse listeners who favor street-credible acts like Jesu, Boris and SunnO))).. He also stresses that he means for Alcest’s music to convey a sense of hope.. When Paut was about 5 years old, he started having what he describes as extrasensory visions.. ( In a video trailer where he discusses Spiritual Instinc t’s themes and album artwork, Paut says that Alcest’s music “is breathing spirituality.”). It might sound a bit strange, but I’ve always felt like there’s one part of me that doesn’t really belong [in this physical world].. “I started this project because I was feeling very alone having had this experience,” explains Paut with a laugh.. “For me, it was like throwing a bottle in the sea and hoping for someone to write you back.. That’s the most beautiful feedback you can get.”

Spiritual Instinct is also exactly the right album at the right time.. Quite likely my 2019 Album of the Year.. Spiritual Instinct is not only a very recognisable Alcest album, portraying the ethereal and mellow side of black metal, but also an innovated one where Neige pushed the black metal and post metal aspects of his music to its natural progression.. Jardin de minuits and L’île des morts are both songs that display this slight increase in heaviness while keeping with the Alcest’s trope of ending a song with a chorus that follows a tremolo picked guitar melody.. The last song Spiritual Instinct is constructed both musically and technically similarly to Délivrance, the last song on the album Shelter which was clearly its high point.

It’s worth pointing out here that Neige has always had an excellent ear for dynamic range, and for when to build up and strip back the instrumental layers.. Although there isn’t quite so much room for such a solo on Spiritual Instinct , that build of layers and the contrast of dynamics is still present.. It opens with a snarling guitar and hefty drums which build and build and then die back to allow that famous, beautiful, crystalline guitar tone to come to the fore.. Positioning Neige as the narrator of Le Miroir, the soul as dark as the rivers of Erebus he talks about is his own.. Putting politics aside, Spiritual Instinct is just as strong and just as beautiful an album as fans could have hoped for as a follow-up to Kodama .

Videos

1. Alcest - Spiritual Instinct (Album Review)
(A&P-REACTS)
2. L'île des morts
(Alcest)
3. Alcest - 2016 Kodama [FULL ALBUM]
(BodiTugs)
4. Alcest- Les voyages de l'âme ALBUM REVIEW
(theneedledrop)
5. Les Discrets - Russian Tour Rewind
(Henry)
6. Alcest - Sapphire (Bass Cover)
(Adam Courtinot)

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