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This in-depth and detailed interview with Fred and Jo of both Ataraxie and Funeralium brings Comrade Aleks up to date with how both bands are getting on.

Interview with Ataraxie.
"Ataraxie was born in 2000, Funeralium - in 2003. Ataraxie performs nihilistic Funeral/Death Doom metal, Funeralium - antisocial blackened Funeral Doom. They have much in common, and moreover they have two common members - guitarist Frédéric Patte-Brasseur, and Jonathan Théry who plays bass in Ataraxie, guitars in Funeralium and performs vocals in both… These two bands together win the prize for most depressive extreme Doom bands of France, so I approached Jonathan and Frédéric in order to sort out everything…the more so, as Ataraxie are finishing recording their fourth album."

Talking to Comrade Aleks today, Frédéric Patte-Brasseur and Jonathan Théry of Ataraxie and Funeralium.

Salute Jonathan and Frédéric! Thanks for your time, comrades! Well, as you both are involved in two of the most depressive French doom bands, I'd like to start from the point where it all began. Ataraxie was born first, in 2000, what kind of ideas did you want to express through the band? Was it a kind of legal outlet for your inner negativity?

Jo: Hi Aleks! After the split of my previous black/death metal band around 1999, I really wanted to slow down the tempo and explore the bleakest side of metal. As I've always been a big fan of doom and death metal at the same time, it came to me that doom/death was the most obvious choice. Thus, I decided to found my own doom/death metal band that was later called Ataraxie in 2000. I recruited firstly Clément who used to be guitar player in my previous black/death band and also spoke about that project to the owner of Hellion that was the most famous metal shop in Rouen. That's how I was later introduced to Pierre and Sylvain who were the few musicians into doom metal during that period. A couple of years later, I met Fred in 2001 when we had to replace Clément when he decided to leave the band.

At that time, I used to live in Rouen so I was just into everything dark and twisted in metal but not so concerned about negativity as Rouen is a peaceful city. I was just an old teenager with a bad sense of humor and an attraction for the morbid and the bizarre. Yet, it really changed later when I moved to the Sin City of Paris in 2003 to go on my studies there.

You spent a lot of time working on debut album 'Slow Transcending Agony', how did it happen that it took about five years to finish?

Fred: Well, Ataraxie line-up was not stable before the end of June 2001, and we worked on the songs of our first demo until the first half of 2002 I'd say. Then we recorded them, released "The Other Path" demo at the beginning of 2003, and I think we finished composing Slow Transcending Agony during spring 2004… we recorded the album during the summer, but having to find a label, wait for the label schedule to find us a spot to release the album, we were already in June 2005.

During this whole period of time we've always been active, playing as many gigs as we could, and considering our schedules, we could not compose new songs while preparing for the gigs. Considering what we've done afterwards, you'll see we've always been pretty slow in recording new albums, but it really has to do with the length and complexity of the songs, versus our amount of available time when it comes to composing altogether. Jo: I remember well that period as real doom/death wasn't that popular. Goth metal genre was already extremely contaminating doom/death scene with all these unbearable 'beauty and the beast' bands inspired by Theatre Of Tragedy or just slow bands without any doom or death metal influences. So it was not an easy task to find a label interested in releasing old school doom/death without marketing assets like a beautiful woman on vocals or romantic keyboard. I remember contacting labels like Holy Records and I Hate Records. Yet, I also contacted in parallel Makoto from Weird Truth who was finally the first one to propose us a solid deal. At that time, I knew well Weird Truth as they had released the Worship demo and reissued first recordings of Mournful Congregation. To be honest, that's still a honour to be still working with such and underground and devoted label as we share the same passion for real doom/death metal.

Ataraxie - 'L'Ataraxie' (Official):

Two years before this release you also started Funeral outfit Funeralium: what was your main reason to have two bands of pretty similar genres at the time? Didn't you have enough space for self-expression in Ataraxie?

Fred: Jo was studying in Paris, and I was already living there for job purposes… We knew that Despond was looking for live musicians, and we started by joining the band in its live incarnation. But soon we felt it was too similar to what we were doing with Ataraxie, so we decided to put up another band altogether. The main idea was to explore new fields, mixing our more traditional doom influences, with extreme doom influences, of bands that were not so known in 2003 and sounded like crazy to us, like Burning Witch, Thergothon, Thorr's Hammer, Bethlehem… Funeralium was like a free artistic field where we could experiment with those influences, with much freedom, while we felt we couldn't do such things with Ataraxie. Or so we thought! Jo: At that time, I would also say that Ataraxie was not so focused on the extreme doom side and that was a real choice. We just used to play classic doom/death until the release of 'Slow Transcending Agony'. So when I moved to Paris, we decided to explore a more sinister and slower approach as we had some free time for that. So as we were big fans of old school doom metal, extreme doom, dark metal, black metal bands, we wanted to found a band mixing all these styles. So that's the way Funeralium was born and we decided to recruit other friends from Paris ie Tenebrion and Ys….

Funeralium's first ever record, 'Ultra Sick Doom', was recorded 14 years ago - the name speaks for itself, but what was on your mind back then? You already had two demos with Ataraxie, so how did you separate your influences, your ideas between the two bands? Do you have problems deciding where to use one or another idea?

Fred: Well, as you said, the name says it all… it really expresses all we wanted to do with our music. Being the more extreme, craziest, crushing doom act possible. Ataraxie was our vision of doom/death, while Funeralium was this blend of trad doom and extreme doom I mentioned before. For the ideas, it has never been a problem choosing for which or which band we should use them, as the majority of the composing work was done in the rehearsal room. Jo: "ultra sick doom' was a reference to Bethlehem 'dark metal' album. Actually, they managed to found their own twisted and unclassified metal genre by releasing their first full-length. As we had the same approach with Funeralium ie founding our own genre of extreme doom with old school doom influences, we thought it was a good idea to entitle our demo like that.

Actually, it's pretty clear for me about what can be used in Ataraxie and Funeralium even if we share many doom metal influences. I would say Funeralium owns less musical barriers than Ataraxie as we can really abuse everything that sounds bleak from rock to metal. As long as it sounds sinister at the end, that's what matters the most as atmosphere will always prevail in that band.

It's a bit different with Ataraxie as I still consider ourselves like an extreme version of classic 90s doom/death band (a bit like Disembowelment). So our main influences will always be DOOM metal and DEATH metal. Let's say we have just a little bit more musical barriers. I would also add that atmosphere will always be a little more epic and tragic in Ataraxie and not that insane even if they can be as well.

Funeralium: Charles Ward (Bass), Marquis (Vocals, Guitars), Berserk (Guitars), Asmael Lebouc (Bass, Vocals).

Funeralium's self-titled debut... how do you remember this period? What happened around the band at the time? Did you already have some followers?

Fred: I remember doing this album with the least budget possible. It was mainly made, except for the drum takes, in Jonathan's bedroom at his parent's place, and a huge 4x12 guitar cab going full volume in the next room. It was the first time ever I would record for something that would not be a demo, so I took my role as a producer/recording engineer very seriously. Funeralium had already a bit of a name, mainly in the Netherlands where we would usually play with other extreme doom acts, such as Bunkur, Planet AIDS, Forgotten Tomb, Thee Plague of Gentlemen, and many more… We felt we were part of a broader extreme scene that had a spot for us. Jo: Actually, that was a really prolific and interesting period for the extreme doom genre as I think we entered a new era. It was taken officially out of the subbasement with bands like Bunkur, Wormphlegm, Tyranny, Moss and us. Before that, some bands were spread around the globe like Evoken or Skepticism yet there was no real scene for that kind of metal so no fests or specific gigs. There were also no slow hardcore/stoner hooded hipsters or instagram bands posing and wanking in front of their 20 amps. That was really about Extreme doom METAL devotion and not pretending to be 'cool' on social networks. Anyway, that was really the beginning of SOMETHING in Europe and I'm glad we were part of it by playing at the first editions of Ashes to Ashes Doom to dust fests. We quickly all knew each other at the end, founded a kind of extreme doom community and organized many gigs together mostly in NL and Belgium. As we only had our demo available during these first gigs we played, recording our album became quickly necessary.

The debut continues the direction you chose on 'Ultra Sick Doom', were you sure that this form was the most suitable to express the feelings you keep for Funeralium?

Fred: Sure it was! We were the same musicians from the beginning, and the direction we wanted to follow was clear. We just added elements on the way, such as the spooky "tarentinesque" layers of clean guitars in some songs. Jo: Obviously! Actually, we founded our own genre to spead all these feelings through our music. So we tried to adapt the means to reach what we wanted to do.

The next record was Ataraxie's full-length 'Anhédonie', released in 2008. You both already had enough of experience, each of your bands already had one album in its discography, so what kind of plan did you have entering the studio?

Fred: The main idea was to pick up things where we left them on Slow Transcending Agony, and push every boundary. This led us to longer and more complex songs, with both slower and faster parts, introducing new influences, but also do everything our "own" way. We wanted to sound like Ataraxie, not like an obvious puzzle of influences. While Ataraxie was still a young band on Slow Transcending Agony, I'd say we have reached our very own identity on this album. Jo: As Fred said, the idea was to explore the extreme doom side on 'Anhédonie' without altering our former style. So we decided to play longer songs and push all musical limits further: slower parts, faster parts and so on.

Ataraxie: Julien Payan (Guitars), Hugo Gaspar (Guitars), Frédéric Patte-Brasseur (Guitars), Pierre Sénécal (Drums), Jonathan Théry (Bass, Vocals).

'Anhédonie' consists of four really massive tracks, and the lyrics are massive and detailed too. Who authors the lyrics in Ataraxie, and how important are they for you?

Fred: In the very beginning, it was Jo and I that wrote the lyrics, but I wasn't much taking care of the rhythm of music. It was more like poetry influenced by the music that I wrote, and Jo had to cope with my texts and modify them to fit the songs. So Jo gradually got more involved in the texts, and on Anhedonie, he wrote 80% of the texts. Avide de Sens text was written by the whole band, on our way to a gig. Since, Jo wrote the whole lyrics for the whole songs, and he is very meticulous about it. Jo: As Fred said, we used to write the texts together during the demo period. Yet, it quickly became not too optimal to work like that. Indeed, working on vocals always implies rewriting everything 3 or 4 times to reach the best synergy between vocals and lyrics. Sometimes, you need a shorter word here or a longer part there. I remember that 'demo' period and that was such a waste of time not to master the whole process. So I decided someday to write all texts from A to Z to master all vocals process. As for the lyrics themselves, there are obviously extremely important as they have to match the atmosphere first and reflect your own personal ideas about life.

Frédéric, somewhere in this period you left Funeralium for three years, what happened back then? And what made you return?

Fred: Well, I was living far from Paris back then, and also deeply involved in another ambitious band, Wormfood, which played a very different music. So, I was spending hours in transportation, rehearsals, and since Funeralium just started playing with two basses, I felt like I was not 100% fitting in this musical direction, and really I was skeptical about this. Therefore I left the band, for committing more in my other musical projects and personal life. But during 2009, Wormfood's singer fired every musician in the band but him. The next year, Funeralium was struggling in finding a reliable and dedicated guitarist, and they had this gig to play in a festival at the end of summer… So I returned, at the beginning to help for one gig, but at the first rehearsal it was clear I missed playing this music too much. And meanwhile, the two bass thing had become an interesting concept, where I felt I could finally fit. So… I came back for good!

Funeralium's 'Deceived Idealism' and Ataraxie's 'L'être et la nausée' were both released in 2013: how did you manage to do it? In total it's almost three hours of torture, depression and some insane grief…so I suppose that it was a hard year for you.

Fred: Both release dates fortunately don't reflect the recording schedule we had. Funeralium's "Deceived Idealism" was recorded in the beginning of 2012, while Ataraxie's "L'Être et la Nausée" was recorded in 2013. We could focus fully on each recording's production and specificities way before they were out. But we've been cursed on the Funeralium album, facing production delays on productions delays, so it ended being released in early 2013. Jo: That was indeed tough planning to manage to compose, record and release these 2 albums in parallel almost at the same time. Yet, as music will always be a passion, we never count the time passed to create new music at the end. Moreover, that was not so hard to compose as I always have many musical ideas for both bands in parallel. Yet, that was also the end of an extremely painful period for Funeralium because of all the line up instability of the years before. So that was really a relief to be able to record as these new songs at last as I had been many times really close to make the band split up to be honest. Fortunately, all the new members who arrived in 2007 (Asmael Lebouc, Charles Ward and A.D. K'shon) made finally Funeralium indestructible and it was reinforced later when Fred came back.

Funeralium - 'Slowly We Crawl Towards Crumbs' (Official):

Both albums were recorded in Worship Studio, did you use the same equipment during these recording sessions? Was your approach the same in both situations?

Fred: While I used almost the same guitars on both recordings, the rest of the gear was a bit different. Funeralium's gear is rooted in the 70s hard rock, using germanium boosts to push mid gain guitar amplifiers into the red zone, while Ataraxie used more 90s rooted high gain equipment, such as Soldano based amplifiers, Boss HM2 pedal… (set a different way than Swedish death metal bands used to) and such. Jo: Actually yes and no. As you know I play bass in Ataraxie and guitar in Funeralium so I obviously didn't use the same gear on both albums. Yet, Asmael Lebouc borrowed my bass gear (Ampeg SVT CL made in USA) to record 'Deceived Idealism' for example as it worked well on 'L'être et la nausée". Anyway, working with Chris from Worship studio was a really good experience as he directly understood the heavy sound we wanted to reach in Ataraxie and Funeralium.

'Deceived Idealism' sounds like a more mature work compared to 'Funeralium', how long did you work over it?

Fred: When I returned in Funeralium, most of the music was already written. It only needed my own guitar layers, all of this work being done during 2011. Jo: I would say it took almost 6 years to compose it. It took such a long time because of line up instability between 2007 and 2012. Fortunately, we welcome 3 motivated new members in 2007 who became slowly a new core in Funeralium. Each member definitely brought motivation, new arrangements and musical ideas and also stability. Asmael also became slowly the other main guy behind the composition of Funeralium's songs, concepts and lyrics. As I can assure you that we maturated a lot frustration, anger and bad feelings in all the songs of 'Deceived Idealism'.

What affected the lyrics of 'Deceived Idealism'? Speaking about texts, what drove you to write these antisocial manifests? Does your environment still breed this hate, disgust and anguish in you?

Jo: Asmael and I (we both write lyrics) mainly draw our inspiration from the worst of everyday life and literature that emphasizes the worst of human behaviors. Literature from Sade, religious atrocities (inquisition, torture) and cruelty though the history of mankind have always been a great inspiration.

Actually, living in a city like Paris is really inspiring in terms of negative feelings. You just have to take public transports to feel disgust and hatred breeding quickly inside of you. That city is so saturated with people that you're quickly under pressure because of all the sides effects of human mass. So people can become of all of a sudden crazy, angry for countless insignificant things. I don't even speak about poverty that we usually cross and all the industry around that has risen through the years. That city is so dehumanized that most of the times the best thing to do is to be resigned and find a way to isolate yourself by just reading a great book and listening to music. In our case, writing lyrics and composing music has also become another way to transform all these negative feelings instead of just feeling 'outraged' or 'shocked'.

You know, a first album is a first album, it's OK whatever you record there as a first effort and you have the right to make mistakes. Did you feel a sort of responsibility when after so many years you recorded 'L'être et la Nausée' and 'Deceived Idealism'?

Fred: I had different approaches on both albums. With the line up changes, "Deceived Idealism" was for me a kind of first album again. Three different musicians, a different spirit, a different approach.. So I didn't feel much pressure on that one. Ataraxie's "L'Être et la Nausée" was another story. Despite our feeling that we accomplished a better work on "Anhédonie" than "Slow Transcending Agony", it didn't receive the same warm welcoming than our first album. So, I felt more pressure recording "L'Être et la Nausée", which I felt was an Ataraxie manifesto stating "yes, we are Ataraxie and we indeed play extreme doom/death, take it or leave it", and we had to record it the best way we ever did. Jo: To be honest, I'm really satisfied about what we managed to reach in terms of quality and production on both records. I don't think we made so many mistakes on both records even if we can always improve many things on a record. Anyway, these are two albums that I've kept enjoying playing after all the years. I can't say the same with all our releases to be honest.

'Of Throes And Blight' is Funeralium's latest work - do you see it as the sum of your experience only with Funeralium, or do you see some traces of Ataraxie there as well?

Fred: I think it's very clear now that each band has its own voice, based on each band's experience.

On a more personal level, well, being the only musician playing the same instrument in both bands, of course, I have far different approaches for each band, but all in all it's the sum of my experience as a musician that I rely on. I just see myself as the humble servant of the music that is composed, so I feel I just do what the music needs. Jo: I think we may have incorporated more death metal influences than before on "Of Throes And Blight". So it could be seen like an Ataraxie trace. Yet, it's just due to the fact that we'll are into death metal in Funeralium so all these influences came in naturally. Asmael Lebouc even founded Abjvration (his own death metal band) for example with our previous drummer to explore deeper these influences.

There are ten years between 'Funeralium' and 'Of Throes And Blight', and you managed to keep almost the same sound and vibe. Does this kind of music really work for you still? Are you still really so deep into it?

Fred: Sure. As we started the band defining a strong personal approach, we always keep it in mind when it's about creating new music. We introduce new elements, and keep on what gives us this musical identity. I feel we'll always have this core thing that makes our music recognizable. Jo: I think we reached a certain musical maturity after changing almost our line up in 2007 as we quickly set our most efficient musical process to compose new material. Asmael Lebouc and I keep on composing the raw matter beforehand and then we all improve and arrange the songs together. So there's no need to change that process as I think it's effective enough. As for what will be Funeralium tomorrow, I think we will always try to make things evolve without altering our former style. Music is also a hedonist activity for us as we will always try to keep on playing music that we love listening to. We don't want to become the Bolt Thrower of extreme doom haha

'Of Throes And Blight' was released one year ago, are you already writing new material?

Fred: Indeed, there is a new song almost written yet. I'd define it being "classic Funeralium", but also introduces a few new approaches that will probably surprise our listeners. Jo: Indeed, we have a very long song almost finished now. It just requires some extra arrangements, lyrics and vocals to be finished. Yet, I think a new album should not take so long to be recorded.

The line-ups for both bands have been rather stable for a long period: how do you share your roles considering songwriting in the bands? Do you have a democracy there? Or is it old good totalitarian way of composing?

Fred: Both bands share more or less the same "almost" democratic approach. Most often, Jo will have an idea that will start a song, and the rest is built by the whole band during the rehearsals. There's a lot of trials/mistakes, but it involves everybody until we consider the song to be finished. Everybody shares their opinion, suggests directions, and we mostly keep the things we all agree on. They keyword here is maturity: no one puts their ego higher than the music itself, so it's quite a peaceful process. Jo: There's obviously democracy in both bands as all members are free to bring their own ideas in terms of composition or musical arrangement. As Fred said, I'm used to bringing the raw matter in both bands so it can be several riffs or complete song frames. I just always try to push the composition process as far as possible to keep on releasing new album every 4/5 years. Yet, we always rework the song together as I have many ideas but there are not always the best ones haha. Anyway, both Ataraxie and Funeralium are real bands with real individuals that have to invest themselves. It's pointless to play with session musicians.

Fred, I saw your comment on one site, in a topic where there was an illegal download link of Ataraxie's 'Anhédonie' album. You told them that the band spent 2500 euros to record it, and had recovered at that moment about 50 euros from CD sales. How bad is the situation with sales today?

Fred: It depends on the bands. With Ataraxie we have quite fair deals, and we play quite often so we sell our CDs, that we ask as royalties… So by the time we record a new album, the band has enough money to do a new album; a typical Ataraxie albums sells 2000 copies +/- 500 I'd say. We sell something like 15% of the copies…

I've also been in a much less successful band, where each release has actually cost me money - they sold barely anything.

The new Ataraxie album is in hand, what have you prepared this time for your fans?

Fred: Following Sylvain's departure in 2014, we recruited two guitarists, and we're now a 3 guitars bands. It took a bit of time to get used to this approach (that implies to be able to let the other musicians speak their music when they need to), and now we were able to write a whole album using this new ability. You'll definitely listen to an Ataraxie album, but with a renewed approach, on both harmonies and dynamics. Jo: You have to expect once more a solid piece of extreme doom/death with bleak atmospheres, extreme vokills, crushing riffs and blast beats! So don't expect a softer album compared to 'L'être et la nausée'. Having some new members really brought some fresh air when Sylvain left the band and led us to rethink Ataraxie music. Yet, it required changing the way we used to work together during almost 14 years. For example, I used to rework new songs at home with Sylvain until he left the band. So when he was replaced by Hugo and Julien, we had to rethink the whole process to incorporate the talent of both new guitar players. Fred also had to rethink his guitar parts in the mix to take into account 2 other ones. It took some time to adjust the whole process (that's why it took some time to compose 'résignés') but it turned out really well. So really look forward to showing you what is Ataraxie in 2018.

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Interviewed on 2018-04-14 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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