Recent Music Reviews
THE DEVIL’S BLOOD (Selim Lemouchi) INTERVIEW
There are only a handful of albums that managed to create such a massive impression on me as “The Thousandfold Epicentre”, the second studio album of the Dutch Occult Rockers The Devil’s Blood, so grabbing the opportunity of doing an interview with the band was a no brainer. When I arrived at the London Underworld on the night of the 25th of November I was led to believe that the interview would not take place due to time restrictions, however the forces that be conspired so that a couple of hours prior to watching one of the best gigs I have ever seen, I was also granted an audience with guitarist and founding member Selim Lemoushi for what turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable chat. If you are interested in finding out what it takes to bring to life one of the best albums of 2011, then all you have to do is to continue reading!
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis
• Selim, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I was really hoping that this interview would take place as I was very impressed by “The Thousandfold Epicentre” – it is indeed one of the highlights of the year for me. It is a well-crafted album with plenty of emotion spewing from it and so you should be really proud of it, which I am sure you are!
Selim: Well, I am – I am very proud! This…this record symbolises a very important part in the evolution of The Devil’s Blood. I think that as a band, not only in a spiritual but also in a practical way, in a day to day way we have become much more focused and more able to pick up the creativity from the air, so to say and make the best use of it while we are working on our material. There was almost no stress in the studio, it was a strangely peaceful process. I mean, we were working pretty hard and we were extremely concentrated, finding every day the much desired focus in order to get to the point where we could say “it is finished”. Well, it is never finished – nothing is ever finished but there is a point when you have to stand back and say “now the rest of the world may finish it” and that moment fills you with pride and joy… sadness as well. It is the end of one period but also the start of a new one. I…in a way, I don’t have children myself but my sister (note: Farida Lemouchi: vocals) who does, explains the feeling as very much the same like when she gave birth to her son – painful but extremely rewarding! It makes me very proud to be able to sit here and talk to people like you from Greece and the one before you who was from Slovenia or wherever and to talk about my work – why I am doing this. It’s good!
• To be honest with you, I had pretty much given up hope with regards this interview taking place as, apart from the fact that I am aware of the band’s quite hectic schedule, I am also aware of the fact that the press has been slightly strange towards you. Actually I am very interested in listening to your opinion on the matter as I find that many fellow journalists are trying to create a certain vibe and image of the band in their writings that I am not sure, having finally met you in person, as to how accurate it is! You don’t seem to be the remote kind of person that you are portrayed to be by the press.
Selim: Well, in a way it is true. We have managed to form our lives according to our own will but that doesn’t mean that we are…I am not a misanthrope in any sense of the word. I appreciate the company of intelligent people, I long for the chance to be able to share thoughts with people who are in any way of interest to me – it doesn’t really matter what their personal traditions or their personal beliefs are! You know, it’s not all hate – there is love as well! I think that the media in general like to concentrate on certain things that will help them sell and you cannot blame them because in the end they are trying to sell newspapers, magazines and get people to visit their websites and whatever, which is fine. As far as this issue is concerned there are a few little lies printed about us but, you know, sometimes it would be nice to talk to people who have actually done their homework, you know? It becomes very clear, a lot of the times very early on, in the conversation where it is that it is going to end up and so I guess that a lot of my supposed negativity comes from having to deal with people like that (laughs). Sometimes you simply have to hang up the phone after five minutes saying to yourself “OK, that’s enough – I don’t need to deal with this”! There is no point for me to continue such a conversation. I think that we have been very blessed in a lot of ways! The underground Metal scene has given us a home, in a way, which I thought that was very great because, as far as I can tell, we are not a Heavy Metal band, you know? Of course, we love Heavy Metal and there are some influences there probably but we are a Rock n’Roll band – that’s what we are and that is what we will always be! It’s just nice to see people step outside their normal everyday pattern and taste and give something else a try and if that something else is us then I am not complaining! The small media has supported us since the very beginning, the bigger media are now starting to notice us as well but I think that it is very important for us to maintain the focus on the entire group, you know? I don’t think that it should work that when a band becomes a little bit more popular or bigger that they should turn their backs on the people who helped them get there, you know? I am pretty realistic when it comes to that! If good, honest, dedicated people want to do something with us then, why not?
• There are two things that I really love about The Devil’s Blood; the first is that you somehow manage to capture all the positive things from the 60s and the 70s in your music while keeping things fresh and exciting and the second is that you just take things as they come, really – there doesn’t seem to be a grand plan behind things and that enables a certain amount of spontaneity. It is quite refreshing to find a band with so much potential saying “you know what, if I feel like writing an album I will do it – if I don’t, I will not”!
Selim: Well, for me…what you’ve got to understand about The Devil’s Blood is that we are here today because of that attitude! There was no band - it was just me and my sister making demos originally and then there were people that were asking us to do this really big concert on the Roadburn Festival and we were like “yeah, that sounds good, a really cool idea – let’s figure out a way to do it”! So you go around looking for people and you start our first line up, you start rehearsing and then you are like “Ok, if someone wants us to release something, if they want to pay for the studio then why not”? Everything that we do is always based on “does it make sense to us”, “is it a good thing to do”, “does it make us feel that we are actually spending our time on something worthwhile”? If the answer is ‘yes’ then we do it and it doesn’t matter what it is – it could be anything! That is just the way that…I guess that’s the way it works for us that we can be able to…we can’t be too busy with all the day to day stuff – we have people for that. We have a good manager and we have a good finance guy, we have a tour manager and they all make sure that the buses get where they need to be on time and we only then do this – like children in the playground, waiting for our parents to pick us up (laughs)!
• While I was waiting for the previous interview to finish I noticed and was informed that there was not going to be an opening act in tonight’s show which I believe is a clever things because, if everything…
Selim:…this was really not our choice this time, to be honest. The first time that we played here, it was decided that we shouldn’t have a support act because it would be too much of a hassle and we wanted to be able to make everything work for us. This time round it never came up as an issue. I think that the people of the venue themselves were like “it worked very good the last time, so let’s do it like that again”. I wouldn’t have been against the idea of sharing the same stage with another band because we have recently done these three or two extremely good ‘rituals’ with our friends from In Solitude from Sweden, Procession and many other bands. We played with Watain in Sweden and, I mean, those were fantastic evenings in a lot of different ways as you get to mix energy between different branches of the same root! That’s fantastic and I really enjoy that but now we have the peace and quiet to completely focus and concentrate on what it is that we want to do, and that is a luxury in the end and it definitely feels like that and I like it!
• From the fan point of view it is also interesting because when you get a band onstage prior to the one that you have come to see, you tend to get into the vibe and mood of that band and then ten, fifteen minutes late you are asked to clear everything and tune into a different ‘frequency’ which could be difficult.
Selim: It could be difficult, yes, and that is one of the biggest problems when you are doing festivals, obviously, as it is a mixed thing, you know? Sometimes it works out perfectly and sometimes it’s almost like banging your head against the wall and you just cannot get the people to connect and, you know, that sucks – it’s not a situation that we enjoy but you need to be professional about it and just go with the flow.
• Both as an individual and collectively as a band you have a certain ideology which quite logically infiltrates your art. I do not wish to analyse or discuss it because I understand and respect the fact that is something very personal, what I do want to ask however is whether it is important to you as the creator of the music and purveyor of that message that the people who attend your shows and buy your records are similarly minded. Is that what you wish or is it unimportant by the end of the day?
Selim: I hope that this is what people do - I hope that they will allow for us a possibility to explain our reasoning…I hope that people forget about what they know and that they appreciate all the mysteries that are still out there and if some people are to be drawn only to the music, fine. If that is their way of expressing their spirituality, that’s fine by me. Some people will be drawn to the lyrics and into the presentation and those people might get a little bit further into it and some other people might already be in touch with it and see this simply as some kind of ceremony to re-establish their personal connection to something bigger than themselves. I don’t care which it is – the one thing I care about is that we have some kind of interaction, some kind of impact on people. I would like people to be a bit confused afterwards or a bit undone, a bit emotional, you know? Whether it reacts in a violent way with aggression or with hatred, or reacts in a positive way with true love and closeness and oneness with others then all is fine, it’s great, it doesn’t matter why we do what our instincts tell us to do. It’s much more important that we allow the instincts to come out!
• Your latest material, as I have already expressed, is truly beautiful, especially in the vocal department where we are presented with layers upon layers of impressive performances by your sister. Now, I assume that in a live environment certain adjustments will need to be made in order to accommodate such demanding compositions, right?
Selim: Well, some songs we do not play live, other songs we re-work a bit to give them a new ‘face’ and other stuff you just work around, you know? There are a lot of things that you can do with three guitars and one vocalist on stage which I think that you will witness tonight.
• So how does the new material sound to you now that you have had the chance to perform it live for the last few days? This is the ultimate test in a way, right?
Selim: I think that they sound really good to be honest. We were in Wurzburg/Germany, Groningen and Rotterdam in Holland, Helsinki in Finland and I think that what this has been is a trail of fire; everywhere we go it seems to catch and spread! Musically I think that we are at a level now that we have never been before and we have only to grow and become better, so I have high hopes for the future!
• When things tend to happen, they do for the reasons that they do, so asking you what the plans for the future are would be pretty pointless!
Selim: Well (laughs), there is the future and there is the future! Of course we are booking a lot of concerts, going to a lot of places like Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and I also believe that we will do America next year and most likely England and Ireland! We are trying to do as much as we can! We have the feeling that we have something incredibly important to say so we will try to say it as often as we can! That’s my future, maybe the twelve coming months – beyond that, I have no idea! I do not have a fu*king clue and I don’t want it – I want to see what happens as and when it does. A good friend of mine asked me this week, or better told me this week that she believed that everyone is always awaiting something anxiously – there is always something that people are waiting for and she asked me what it was for me and the only thing that I could think of, the only thing that I would wish for to happen is that ‘his’ voice might find me again, so I will realise that there is more to tell in this story! I also realised that this might never happen, you know? This might have just been the last The Devil’s Blood record – something I said the last time (note: The Time Of No Time Evermore” album) and I probably said when the “Come, Reap” EP was released, because I simply don’t know! There are no more demos, there is no more finished material out there so we will simply have to see!
• Selim, the only thing I am going to say in order to wrap up this very interesting interview is that I hope that if a new calling takes place, you do things with the same passion and determination as the end result is absolutely fascinating! Thank you for your time – I hope that you’ll enjoy tonight’s show! Maybe one day, if we are both lucky, we will get to have another equally interesting conversation!
Selim: That would be nice - thank you very much.