I know it’s been a little while since we last published one of these columns – that’s largely because I want the various artists involved to work on them in their own time and without feeling pressured from my end – but the wait has definitely been worth it, as today we’re talking to songwriter, lyricist, and all-round mastermind A.K. of Decline of the I (along with many other bands).
It’s a fascinating piece, mark my words, which touches on the conceptual underpinnings of the group’s first album trilogy, and their next one, as well as the unusual methods involved in composing each record’s vivid yet dreamlike lyrics.
To be honest, lyrics have always come in second place during the composing process, as my primary vocabulary is music. That being said, I do not neglect them.
In Decline of the I, for the first trilogy (Inhibition, Rebellion, Escape), we had an unusual way of writing them.
Together with V., the former singer, we wrote long texts that were inspired by the whole album, when we were listening it, not a particular song, combined with the whole concept of the trilogy (the work of Henri Laborit on the being’s reactions to aggression).
The result was that we ended up with paragraphs describing whatever feelings, images, situations came into our minds, and we experimented with these sentences by singing/screaming them during the songs.
So, in the end, the final lyrics are a strange medley of things that sometimes seem incoherent but are actually linked in a poetic yet cryptic way.
As mentioned above, in Decline of the I the inspiration comes from the concept.
But the deeper question is – why did I chose those concepts?
I always need a kind of “mise en abyme” (I think this expression is also used in English). Art is always about the creator and the art itself.
But what is art? How can I express something in other form than a regular speech?
For me, the more powerful tool is music. But poetry and lyrics can do that their own way, as long as the lyrics are not just a description, an explicit message, or a story. I think novel or essay work better for these purposes.
So I won’t say I find inspiration from the world around but in the world inside me. Every piece of art is just a testimony.
I knew when I discovered the aphorisms of Emil Cioran (a Romanian thinker who ended up living in France) that I had found an inexhaustible source of inspiration. All his work could be lyrics for Decline of the I.
Sentences like “without the idea of suicide, I’d have killed myself right away” are radical views on our human condition and are also the starts of philosophical thoughts.
In a completely different register, I’ve always liked the lyrics of Axl Rose, specially on the Use Your llusion records! Songs like “Coma” or “Estranged” are masterpieces to me. It’s very in your face, but also very subtle if you look at the details.
Well I jumped into the river
Too many times to make it home
I’m out here on my own, and drifting all alone
If it doesn’t show give it time
To read between the lines
On another note, I would say that I like the way Obituary dealt with things on their first albums – no lyrics at all, just screams. That might just be the most honest way to “sing” a metal song.
For the new trilogy, based on the work of Kierkegaard, I wrote the lyrics by myself, then S.I., the new singer made some proposals to change some words / sentences to fit them into the songs.
I use “automatic writing” which is a process invented by the art movement “les surréalistes”, a century ago.
I chose a subject – for example, it can be a specific Kirkegaardian concept or a sentence from one of his books – then I set a clock to 3 minutes and start to write.
Anything that comes to my mind is written. And once the time is over I select some sentences in the text to use, then do it again until I have enough sentences to fill a song.
Before Decline of the I, I had another solo project called Love Lies Bleeding.
You might say that LLB gave birth to DotI, so I’d like to talk about a very old song, called “I Drown in Existence”.
When I wrote this I was 19, studying philosophy at university, and wanted to put some of the stuff I was learning into the lyrics, albeit, let’s say, in a very naive way.
All ideals are lies.
Non-senses to overcome.
You can’t be free in this miserable world.
Forget what you know and listen to your soul!
I think it was an attempt to talk about Nietzschean concepts in a romantic approach. Sort of like an anti-Platonician crusade! Rejecting all forms of idealism and metaphysics to be closer to the earth, to the self. But, then, I still used a word like “soul” for the romantic side…
Love lies bleeding.
Stabbed by a blade called ” life ”
Stabbed by a blade called ” lie “
My screams are pathetic, my tears have lost their taste,
My will become useless.
This is the end…
This was the actual end of the track, so it was a bit literal!
Off Johannes, our last album, these lines are from “The Veil of Splendid Lies”:
Boredom is the naked truth of life
I adorn this bitch with the finest drapery
I’ll choke a turtle with tons of diamonds
To fill this vase that keeps on getting empty
Some of the lyrics come from automatic writing, such as the image of the choked turtle which is a reference to a book by Huysmans (“A rebours”).
I was not thinking about that book 2 seconds before my pen started writing, but it came out anyway from some subconscious part of me.
It’s important for me now not to control everything and allow some randomness in the process.
“Deus sive musica”