photo by Yoshima Photography
(Our Russian contributor Comrade Aleks brings us this interview he conducted with Jonathan Théry of the French band Ataraxie, whose most recent album was 2013’s L’Être et la Nausée, as well as the bands Funeralium and Void Paradigm.)
As you’ll be able to tell, it took a bit longer than usual to finish this interview with Jonathan Théry, vocalist and bass-player of Ataraxie, who released their new album L’Être et la Nausée in September 2013, but it was worth to wait. Here we have detailed insights into the world of a compelling funeral / death doom band, as well as Jonathan’s other projects.
Hello Jonathan! I’m glad that you’re with us after these New Year holidays. How many days of vacation do you have in France during December – January?
Greetings Aleks. Actually it depends on your job. Fulltime workers have at least 25 days of holidays per year (that’s what is written in labour law) so that’s up to them to book these days off during the year. As far as I’m concerned, I booked 2 weeks in total ’cause my last holidays were in July and I needed a well-deserved break.
May I ask you – what were your best presents for Christmas and the New Year? : )
As a real metalhead, I was offered everything required to slay all hipsters and goths from my town: a new horse, armor, and obviously an axe! hahaha
As every loyal extreme doom metal fan knows, Ataraxie released a new album during September through Weird Truth Productions and Ostra Records (LP). I read some responses, and some of them are good while some of them are critical, as always. Do you still read reviews after all of these years of forging that tormented sound of Ataraxie?
I read most of the reviews that I find because I’m always interested in reading the different points of view about my records. I know where serious reviews and reviewers can be found, so I’m used to visiting the same webzines, blogs, and forums. Yet, it doesn’t mean that I pay too much attention to all reviews in general, as views are like assholes: everybody owns one. So if you like blue, I won’t try to convince you that green is nicer. Also, you know that everybody is now able to open a blog/site/forum and pretend to be a reviewer. That’s what the internet has brought to the masses, i.e., the means to say anything about everything without having the skills to do it. So for sure, you have to know when comments have to be taken seriously or not.
Ataraxie’s last release was named Being and Nausea. Dare I suppose that the band has followed that conception from its very beginning? Am I right? And can you say that lyrically and conceptually Ataraxie really has changed through the years?
I would say yes and no. All the lyrics I have written since the founding of the band have always placed “the being” in the centre and negative thoughts/feelings around it. Yet, it doesn’t mean that my way of treating subjects has always remained the same. Indeed, I founded Ataraxie when I was a 19-year-old student and I’m now a 33-year-old worker. So my way of seeing life has evolved a lot because so many things have happened in between. You don’t see the world the same way when you are 20 and 30 years old. So it took me some time to know what Ataraxie’s lyrics have to be about. I think I finally succeeded when we started to compose Anhédonie. That’s also why I consider the lyrics of previous releases as a kind of lyrical transition period in Ataraxie’s career. Some seeds were there but they just needed more maturation.
The album’s name L’Etre et la Nausee reminds me of the titles of Sartre’s works L’Etre et le Néant and La Nausée. Is there any connection or is it only a coincidence?
There is an obvious connection between these two writings as Sartre remains among my favorite writers. That was our way to pay a tribute to Sartre’s work in general. I particularly enjoy the way everything evolves slowly in his novels (like doom metal songs can do!) and how life is rightly described through his characters. You can definitely identify yourself and find links between their problems and yours. Yet, I’ve been influenced by so many other writers who wrote about “the human being and life”, such as Sade, Kafka, Vian, and Camus, that Sartre’s views alone cannot sum up my views about life. For example, I don’t make any connection between humanism and existentialism. I’m much closer to Sade’s views who used to have a more bestial/tougher view (but more realistic IMO) about the human being.
When my bandmates and I found that title together, I just realized how it summed up perfectly what my lyrics were about. The human being is in the center of them and nausea expresses the interaction between the world and us.
Ataraxie “Face the Loss of Your Sanity”
Have you ever thought about composing a totally conceptual album – with a unified subject or story, with some researches maybe? I’m asking because some bands mostly use common dark trends and others try to do something opposite… For example Italian band The Black has an album based on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, and the Russian band Decay of Reality (with former members of Who Dies In Siberian Slush) has an EP about mental diseases. Do you feel a lack of original topics in the metal genre?
It’s true that most bands don’t have extremely original lyrics BUT I would add that we remain musical bands after all. As long as your music is solid, I’m ready to forgive any form of lame lyrics. Have I told you that my favorite doom metal band is Trouble? I think it’s quite hard to find really original topics. People just write about the topics that interest them. It can be history, UFOs, animals, religion, among many other things…
As far as I’m concerned, I just write about what inspires me in everyday life, and the human being has remained until now my biggest source of inspiration. The fact that I’m French and that I’ve read a lot of literature explains a lot as well. Maybe it’s because I live in a big city like Paris, which is full of bastards! Indeed, I think that Paris is one of the most dehumanized/dehumanizing cities in the world (I know most of the reasons, but I’m not gonna write an essay about that), so it can be brutal to see the way people behave in public transports for instance. People just ignore each other, so you often face the disrespect of people.
Most of the new songs sound bloody heavy and crushing! Bloody… evil! How much of your own personality is in L’Etre et la Nausee? And how do you transfer and keep the emotions that you feel during a song’s composing until the moment when it’s finally recorded?
Thanks for your great feedbacks! You can be sure that all my dark thoughts are contained in that record. For me that’s the most constructive way to use all these feelings, to transform them into musical matter. It’s definitely an outlet for my bandmates and me. That may be why all people are often surprised to know us, because we’re not into complaining, weeping, and so on… The clichés people have about “doomsters”. We face our problems and are ready to fight like Conan did with Thulsa DOOM!
Jonathan, you have a well-known band Funeralium, and Weird Truth released its second full-length Deceived Idealism in February 2013. Can you compare your work in Funeralium with your work in Ataraxie?
Funeralium and Ataraxie have distinctive approaches, influences, and atmospheres. That’s also why I clearly know which riff can be used for Funeralium or Ataraxie when I compose. Yet, it is true that there are many common influences, as both bands play extreme doom metal. I think for example that Funeralium has less strict musical “barriers” than Ataraxie. A good heavy metal or black metal riff can be played in Funeralium BUT that’s not really the case for Ataraxie! Ataraxie mainly focuses on death and doom metal elements played and mixted in the SLOWEST way. You could say Ataraxie is more traditional than Funeralium. Atmospheres are also different IMO. Funeralium has definitely a more vicious and sinister vibe, whereas Ataraxie has a more melancholic and epic touch.
The album’s title is very expressive; did the last year change something in your views on humankind?
To be honest, my views about mankind have remained the same for years now. You don’t have to know a lot about history to see that mankind is trapped in the same mid-term loops. It’s all cyclical. History repeats itself. And yet people will never learn any lessons from their past mistakes even if it leads to misery and demise. So they will always keep on running after (more) money and (more) power (the two most important values in our world), no matter what the consequences shall be.
As my bandmate Asmael Lebouc in Funeralium puts it, “Money is a hard drug”. For example, we now face a strong economic crisis in Europe (and obviously the rest of the world,) and you can find exactly the same behaviors already seen during the crisis of 1929. We know exactly where it led, so do we have to live that once again?
Anyway, governments are mostly filled with politicians who don’t give a fuck about their own countries and people. Don’t search for philanthropists or benevolent people, as you may not find any! That’s also why more and more people tend to believe in more extreme parties or totally ignore politics. That’s obviously not the solution, but we have to admit that our countries need extreme reforms. Politicians solely seek their own reelection.
You also have a black metal band Void Paradigm, and Metal-Archives say that “the band dubs their style ‘hypnotic dodecatonic black metal'”. What do you put into such a specification?
Indeed, Void Paradigm is a studio band that I joined a few years ago. Julien, the main man behind this project (and main composer) asked me to join the band after Hyadningar (the black metal band we had in common with Ataraxie’s drummer as well) disbanded a few years ago. BTW, he is now one of the new guitar players in Ataraxie since Sylvain left the band a few months ago.
To speak again about the Void Paradigm music, Dodecatonic is just a reference to the kind of scales used on this album. They are not the kind of scales which are commonly used in music in general. But I don’t know why people focus on this term, as that’s just a musical term, like the term “prog” refers to song structures. Julien is a big fan of contemporary music, so he just wanted to mix these influences with more classic black metal influences. So our approach may sound closer to Ved Buens Ende, Virus, or Deathspell Omega, which have never limited themselves.
Do you have some new songs in the works for Void Paradigm?
Yes, our new album is finished and will be recorded within the next few months in the studio of the drummer. Once again, it will require a lot of studio work as we never rehearse together, so all arrangements have to be finalized there. So that’s the kind of album on which you mostly work alone at your place! So it’s hard to predict how your parts will sound at the end before recording them. Anyway, I’m looking forward to recording it even if it’s never an easy task to record vocals on strange “dodecatonic” rhythms!
Can you name any reasons that may drive you to finish your relationship with Ataraxie, Funeralium, or Void Paradigm? Or might the bands change their forms when you pass some period of your lives or find some balance, for example?
I would say that weariness would be the main reason. As you may have noticed, line-up issues can be overcome as we’re just 2 formers members in Funeralium and only 3 ones in Ataraxie now. As long as the will to go on is there, you have to continue and give the best. Now all members are really motivated — and that’s motivating — we have strong core members in the 2 bands. Yet, if someday you realize that you are starting to get bored and feel like having nothing more to say, you have to listen to yourself and stop, once and for all, or take a break like Autopsy did for example. I’m sure people will respect that decision even if it can sound “extreme” at that moment. Do you think we still need bands like Metallica or Sepultura? I can’t even listen to these bands any longer, as they have managed to destroy completely what they built. Anyway, life is too short to waste time on non “rewarding” activities.