Interview: Celeste

Celeste play metal and come from Lyon, France. Over the past couple of years they have produced several astonishing records. Exploring the dark underpass of sounds they are determined to out do themselves – to create something more extreme than the last. The albums flow from one to the other, often the final track offers an indication as to where the group are heading on subsequent releases.

Posted on Dec 13th, 2010 in Features and Interviews, Celeste, Denovali / By Samuel Breen
Celeste Signed to Denovali Records the group share stomping ground with Worriedaboutsatan, Nadja, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, Her Name Is Calla and Jeniferever. Their latest release Morte(s) Nee(s) [tr. Death(s) Birth(s)] is one of 2010’s finest LPs. A mixture of obliterating riffs, black metal blankets of sound, and looping melodies turning and returning to life à la Michael Myers of Halloween fame.

From speaking to Johan (vocals) and Antoine (bass) the group seem relatively isolated from their peers. They have little knowledge of other acts working within their domain. Rather than being on a journey enveloping themselves in their art, the group provides a core friendship for it’s members. With no one to compare themselves to, the group enjoy the occasional tour of Japan and Asia whilst entertaining an increasingly popular profile in Europe and America.

More a band of brothers than collective expression the results can be quite distinct from the ethos or outlook of the group. Light in demeanour whilst vocals on social injustice (for example, France’s protection of Roman Polanski, or Serge Gainsbourg’s celebrity) the sound arrives out of “unconscious personal choice” rather than angst or catharsis.

How did the group form? When was Celeste was conceived, what was the idea?

Antoine: I met Guillaume (guitarist) when we were children and we started to play music from about 15 years old. We first played in a punk/hardcore band with Guillaume on drums. Then we met Royer at college and started to play together but with him on drums and Guillaume as a guitarist. At this time we were heavily influenced by the Screamo scene, so we began with that type of music. Two years later after auditioning many singers, Johan, who at this period still played with Mihai Edrisch, joined the band and it started to get serious. In summer 2006, after having worked on old songs we went into the studio to record Pessimiste(s). That’s how Celeste started. But I acknowledge we didn’t expect that Celeste would become what it is right now.

Celeste are accelerating as a group. Your riffs are getting a lot faster and a lot more extreme. Is this something you are trying to achieve?

Antoine: Yes definitely. It was a real aim to achieve this with our last album Morte(s) Née(s). We wanted to further what we started on Nihiliste(s) and then with Misanthrope(s). We wanted something aggressive, dark and nasty...I don’t know whether or not our listeners think that it’s a success but at least we are really happy about what we created and how this album sounds...It’s a kind of we can try to follow new paths and “renew” our music.

Have you thought about where you would like to develop the sound?

Antoine: Not really yet. We are currently composing new material and trying to find something which retains our own identity, but with something new. We still don’t know what it will be yet. We’ll see, anyway we can’t do another Morte(s) Née(s).

Have your new styles opened up possibilities or do you feel restricted trying to pursue your goal? I’m thinking about the contrast between the new sounds with slow tracks like ‘(S)’?

Antoine: As I said previously, it was a personal choice to compose such an extreme album. But extreme doesn’t mean necessarily play faster. For sure most of our new tracks are faster than those which are on Misanthrope(s) or Nihiliste(s) but it was a real will to insert slower, but intense, songs as ‘(S)’ or the end of ‘De Sorte que plus jamais un Instant ne soit Magique’ in order to, as you said, introduce more contrast on the album. So for sure this choice opened new possibilities.

I feel it is important to talk about your lyrics even though I find them hard to follow. There are a lot of different themes to them, whether it is religion or gender equality, however the subject matter is frequently political. Do you treat your vocals as a way to critique society?

Johan: You’re right about the fact that my lyrics could look quite political. That’s pretty weird, because it wasn’t made on purpose, I’d even say that I wanted my work to be non-political. But as the themes I’m dealing with are definitely sensitive I understand your point of view. On another hand there are no left or right wing elements in my lyrics since I really don’t care about “true politics”. I don’t know why my work got into this scheme. But maybe by getting older and after 10 years of song writing I feel the need to not only talk about my personal issues, but somehow more about my opinion. So yes in the end there’s a lot of social criticism in my last works. I don’t know enough about other bands lyrics to know if it’s just another cliché in the end, or if it’s pretty original for a band such as Celeste... I just hope so.

Many of your LP designs are startling because - almost erotic in their nature – they’re quite distinct from your counterparts who frequently employ classic metal symbolism, i.e. the occult.

Johan: I had a concrete idea when I started to work on this artwork. So I simply started to seek on the Internet for a good photographer to work with. I finally found this young polish photographer, and luckily she had a photo session in stock that definitely fit to my expectations. Of course I had to do some settings to make it stick even more to our imagery, but it was quite a chance to find her. I wouldn’t say it’s erotic, even more since the girl is only 13. But it’s definitely disturbing.

Towards the end of “De sorte que plus jamais un instant ne soit magique” the track breaks down into this disjointed loop which I find totally harrowing, could you talk about what you were trying to create here?

Johan: We never had the time to work with some guests in the past and it was definitely something we wanted to do. We wrote this song in a way to show all the different faces of Cele, that’s why it’s our longest track and also the most contrasted. When we first wrote the end of this track, we finished it with some more frenzy riffs, but I finally thought about cutting it and using this low tempo part as the end of the album. I felt some nostalgia in the melodies, and I thought that we could even more stress that feeling with some underlying melodies made by classic instruments. The result was better than I expected, this is really melancholic. In some ways it helped us to perfectly reach our first goal since this part gives more contrast to this song and the whole album itself.

Yeah I agree. I find that section quite meditative. It sounds like your writing/recording sessions are quite intense. How do you manage a band dynamic whilst trying to produce such complex perfection?

Johan: That’s pretty simple, we drink a lot of beers! More seriously, we are really good friends, so even if we do a pretty intense and complex music, we can deal with it pretty easily. Of course there are a few tensions sometimes, but we can always remember that we are friends and that we most of the time have good experiences together. So when things get a bit tougher, we always try to think about the best compromise we can make. And anyway we’re pretty much all the time on the same wavelength, so we’re not arguing a lot.

I wasn’t expecting that you’d say ‘nostalgia in the melodies’. Are you speaking of a personal moment or something more general?

Johan: That’s more a general feeling, but maybe we don’t see nostalgia the same way. To me nostalgia is most of the time related to uneven feelings, I could never know if it’s about sadness or happiness, that’s pretty strange, and that’s what I’m feeling when I hear the end of the album, it’s pretty complex and disturbing. There’s all this darkness all along the album, and this particular hint at the end is pretty interesting. You know it’s like when you somehow appreciate being sad, because maybe you think that it’s really deep while being happy is not an
interesting feeling.