AN EVENING WITH ALCEST
STEPHANE PAUT NEIGE: “Alcest was a necessity for me”
I rarely accept to interview artists after the show and as I’m writing this article, I wonder why I did it. Alcest‘s music influences me on a level I can’t properly describe. Saying that Alcest’s music transcends definition of beauty doesn’t even come close to it. And after subjecting myself to such atmospheric and gentle beauty during the band’s hour long set of misty magic, I had a strange time interviewing the person responsible for the exquisite melodies that dig deep inside your soul. But, alas, the article follows.
Interview and photo: Martina Šestić | firstname.lastname@example.org
I met with Neige couple of days ago in Budapest in the quiet backstage room at Dürer Kert and we chatted listening to Anathema, who they’re touring with. As we sit down, before I begun with my questions, Neige mentions how glad he is to have performed that night. “Nothing bad happened, there were some problems with our bus, we got a replacement one. I won’t go too much in detail but because of that we missed shows in Bucharest and Sofia. It’s the first time this happened to us. We’ve never cancelled shows or anything like that so it was a big deal for us. Morale in the band was very low in the last couple of days. But today we are very happy to play again. It was fun. I hope it will get better in the next days.”
He looked genuinely upset by what’d happened and further confesses that “touring is not exactly easy to begin with and those types of issues make things really difficult.” However he points out that “everything happening on stage is great, it’s just what happens outside the shows can be like that… difficult.”
In that tone we start dwelling into the topic of music and I ask him to describe what Alcest means to him, how did creating for the band influence him as a person. Without hesitation he answers that “it’s like a therapy” and elaborates, “I would say it helps me feel better. I mean every musician could tell you this, I am not original from that stance, but I would say that in the beginning Alcest was a necessity for me. I didn’t necessarily like the music or listened to this style but I needed to do it for strange reasons. Now I have learned to be proud of Alcest and what I’ve learned along the way. It kind of saves me, you know?”
Very much like the previous album “Shelter”. When I heard him saying those words I thought of how Alcest helps him to keep the light and brightness alive so that he doesn’t forget he still has it and that darkness is not allowed in all pores of one’s being. “I think I am putting the best parts of myself in it, the brightest parts. And the darkside… It’s what lives in the daylight. There is some melancholy in Alcest but it’s not dark. The music I create is like a shelter to me.”
A fine escapism, but very fragile, which is suggested through the tenderness of each melody of the band’s opus. On the other hand letting the world see your soft spots is courageous, especially when you have fans and critiques waiting for the next release.
“I don’t think about the fans when I write music. I think about them when I’m on stage, when the album is released. But when you write, I am speaking for myself, maybe it’s different for others, I never think about the fans, friends, family, no one. I just try to connect with myself.”
“It’s strange to give myself so much out there. It’s giving shape to the deepest parts of me. Things I don’t even know myself. It’s like a mirror of everything indescribable I have inside of me. I think people that have very strong depth, when they start creating, their inner world goes out. That’s what I am trying to do with Alcest. To transcend my human nature. It sounds a bit pretentious and weird but I think that we are not, our essence is not human, we are so much more, our soul is not defined as a human soul. For me Alcest is a way to express this non-human part of me. I can’t really talk about it. People ask me ‘what do you think we are’… But I have no idea, maybe it’s just a connection to who I was before in my previous life. It is very deep and weird. People might hate it but it’s true.”
But so many people love it and on the way get influenced by Alcest‘s world to create music on their own. As Neige told me “it’s the best compliment you can get” because as he put it “when you start playing music, you don’t think about that you’re going to influence somebody else.” But you do, especially when you create something deep and meaningful that sort of opens even a spiritual path for the listener. As we begun talking about spirituality in music and life, I asked him to define it for me. Before he did so, he pointed out that when talking about spirituality he doesn’t think about religion. “Spirituality to me is balance between highest and lowest parts of me. People usually think I am into meditation, that I live in the forest, but I am just a very ordinary person with a lot of flaws, issues, struggles… And spirituality is a way for me to raise myself and try to be a better person, to connect with something that is more true than what we are. Because I think we live in a very superficial world.”
Superficial is a word I could label on probably too many artists (and not just musicians), people and world in general. I was curious to know his further thoughts about the current state of music scene and reasons why is music less and less trying to give food for thought or just trying to change something for the better.
“Bands are mostly inoffensive, they have nothing to say, nothing to fight for and it is getting very superficial. On musicianship level, the importance of melody, skills, songwriting, all of that is disappearing. And people working on different things like sound and production are making music sound very arranged, it’s interesting but not very satisfying for me.”
With Kodama, Alcest’s latest release, the band opened a new chapter in effort of making people reconnect with nature, with their own spiritual, inner world and to finally realize that humanity and nature are not supposed to clash because they are one and interconnected.
“Lots of music is inspired by nature. Just look at metal. Metal is eco-type of music. And for Alcest I was always inspired by nature because it helps me to connect with a spiritual world. I don’t go to church but I go to forest. I think when you listen to music that is very transcendental, it appeals to something ancient that has always been deep within you and in human world. It can refer to nature because nature has always been here. It is something beyond time. All great music can be connected to nature. Like Bach. He was a pop genius of his time.”
Discussing motivation behind songwriting and composing, I mention that majority of art comes from the dark states of mind – from ordinary sadness to clinical mental conditions. This can be seen on metal scene – most of the bands portray darkness.
“That is what inspires people,” he agrees and continues, “but that was not my case. It’s not exactly happiness in my music, there is always a bit of nostalgia. It’s rather bitter-sweet. I got used to not writing about dark things with Alcest. For example, we have many happy songs like Shelter. And people rarely connect with these kind of songs. I can really see that people associate music with dark feelings. For me happiness is much stronger and even more beautiful and more rare. I think it’s because I’m quite a bit depressed person. And happiness is so beautiful for me that I can be very inspired when it happens to me.”
Well, it certainly gave me something to think about, of happiness becoming something so rare, like an endangered animal species, and if we don’t do something, if we don’t act, it will vanish, disappear, become extinct.