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"It's strange, but French band Northwinds isn't well known, even though they've existed since the '80s..."

Interview with Northwinds.
"It's strange, but French band Northwinds isn't well known, even though they've existed since the '80s, playing at the crossroads of Traditional Doom metal and Progressive Rock. So, they've been playing this music for about 28 years, and they play it good. Needless to say that creative processes in Northwinds go slowly, so there are only five albums in their discography, and all of them have been released by Black Widow Records. The latest record 'Eternal Winter' saw the light of day in July 2015, and besides that the band made their first split-album in the same year – with young Bordeaux band Marble Chariot. After a few listenings of the new songs I've caught myself on the idea that I have so many questions for Northwinds: guitarist Thomas Bastide and singing drummer Sylvain Auvé are here to spread the word on French Progressive Doom."

The band: Thomas Boivin (Bass), Emmanuel Peyraud (Keyboards), Sylvain Auvé (Drums, Vocals) and Thomas Bastide (Guitars).

Salute Sylvain and Thomas! Let us start with the fact that a few months ago you released a split-album with Marble Chariot. How did you come to the idea of this record?

Sylvain: Marble Chariot contacted us via our Facebook page and proposed us to do a split ep. They did the first step and took in charge all the problems linked with the final product! We must thank them once again for the good job they provided all along the process. They even organized a concert in Bordeaux for the promotion of the split.

We are very happy cos' it is the first split in Northwinds' history.

Thomas: Yes Quentin (bass player) contacted us directly to propose us the split. They were really enthusiasm to the idea of this split with us, hey it's been pleasure to see that! So we recorded Witchcoven, an old piece of Sylvain and Marble Chariot the Title Darkness falls (which is really awesome by the way!)

Today's interviewees, Thomas and Sylvain.

The artwork of your side of this split looks like it's from the '80s, as a song about witch burning seems like a doom cliche. How did you find this picture and why did you approach this particular theme?

Sylvain: Artwork was done by a friend of us, Guillaume Baudry, on our request. Yes, it's totally "cliche", and if you think it's a copy of the 1st Mercyful Fate mini-album: you're right, it was done on purpose. It's deliberate! The song is an old one (around 97?) and the lyrics were very "cliche", inspired by the adventures of Jules de Grandin, a character created by American author Seabury Quinn in 1925. And it's not about "witchburning" or "crucified nuns"!! Do you know "Invasion of the body snatchers"? It's more or less that kind of stuff…

Don't you want to dig up another track from your past, and do another split-album with some band with that you've played gigs with, or with other bands from Black Widow?

Sylvain: It would be cool, why not? But split ep or split albums are not in our label's tradition. We are open to any proposition.

As I understand this split-vinyl is self-released, how do you spread it?

Sylvain: You can obtain it by contacting us via our Facebook.

Thomas: But be quick, it is almost sold out!

More than that – after three years you also have a new full-length album, 'Eternal Winter'. The new songs sound extra old school, how did you achieve such a result?

Sylvain: We're born too late and we're living in the past, it's our curse. We control all the process from recording to mastering, no one interfered in any of these process, except Freddy Delirio (Death SS, W.O.G.U.E,…).

To be honest it's a subtle mix of vision and incompetence, but our ears still command after all these years and we know what we want, we really think we've approached it. A little more "dynamic" in the global sound would have been paradise…Don't misunderstood me, we are very happy with the final result. But we have to improve on many points.

Many thanks to Freddy Delirio : he made what had to done in the final step of the project!

Thomas: Yes and you also have to keep in mind that all pieces of Eternal Winter have been recorded the same time as those on Winter, so there is a homogeneity of sound on both albums (except the mastering)

Northwinds – 'Winter':

Where did you record 'Eternal Winter'? And how long did it take?

Sylvain: Basically, all the basic tracks for "Eternal winter" and "Winter" were recorded along the same sessions. When Black Widow informed us of the impossibility to release the tracks as a double lp/cd we decided to complete the latest album when we had free time. So it took a lot of time. When we first listen to our final mix, we were no more happy with it. So we did all the mix/mastering stages once again. Again, a delay, but not a waste of time.

Basic tracks were recorded in our rehearsal room, Liberty Rock Studio, studio 10 by ourselves. Tracks were completed here and there, when the times were right for us.

Who is the shrouded figure on the 'Winter' and 'Eternal Winter' artworks?

Thomas: The song "Winter" and the lyrics of the whole album demanded a special artwork and we thought about a painting of Caspar David Friedrich, but it ended in the hands of Stefano Scagni, doing his best to emulate Friedrich's famous paintings. A very beautiful and peaceful result. It's a good parallel with our topics, very dark… insignificance of the individual within the nature, the characters of Friedrich's paintings are always diminished to a point that it's almost allegorical.

For Eternal Winter, Stefano made the artwork again, and we are very happy ‘cos it's wonderful. We find this character on the cover of winter in a cold and desolate landscape that is quite what we expected for the album.

Generally, artists who work with Black Widow are very talented. Danilo Capua in the past, done a fabulous job for Northwinds. Hope he'll work with us again!

This time you have one more song with French lyrics - 'Chimères'. Why did you decide to write this song with French lyrics?

Sylvain: Sometimes we are making French lyrics for a song, it's rare. I find it so difficult. But the first version of "Chimères" was written with English lyrics. In that particular song, I feel more confident with French lyrics.

What is this song about?

Sylvain: "Chimères", sung in our native language, is just a fantasy, in the Lovecraft "mould". In the stories he wrote there are a lot of characters who told their story while they have already faced a terrible metamorphosis. So you'll hear two voices in the first and second verses, the voice of the last traces of the human, and the voice of the monster he's become.

By the way, Northwinds have an album named "Chimeres" - is there any connection between it and this new song?

Sylvain: Yes, but the song was not written at the time. We have already faced that situation with "Masters of Magic" lp/cd, you find the song ("Master of Magic") on "Chimères" lp/cd.

No strangeness with "Winter" and "Eternal winter", the songs are on the right lp/cd's, phew!

What inspires you to write lyrics on the themes you choose for Northwinds songs? Don't you feel the attractiveness of such topics as occultism, religion or social problems?

Sylvain: In general the lyrics are dealing with the deceptions, the past, nostalgia and some songs are about some books we have read: "Black tower" is a perfect example.

Weird tales and fantasy are the way we choose to write about our everyday life's experiences. But with the years the tendency is more "down to earth" lyrics.

The lyrics are full of images so everyone may construct his own sense and make a parallel with his own experiences (at least, I like to think so…)

Thomas, you now also play with another powerful French band, Barabbas. How does it feel to be part of this revered council?

Thomas: It's really great to play with them! They wanted to "expand" their sound live, to get closer to the moods and arrangements of songs on album. They contacted me so I joined them (with pleasure!) to take the second guitar and some keyboard parts here and there.

It allows me to play in a slightly different register from Northwinds and in addition they are great guys! Many concerts planned but not least, the fall of summer early September, the samain fest in October and a tour in November with Lord Vicar ... Do not miss!

Men, how often and where do you play with Northwinds?

Thomas: We play for more than 20 years the same place, the liberty rock studio in Paris. It feels a bit like home. And as Sylvain said previously, the last two albums were also recorded there.

We all have a family life and quite busy professional, we can not play as much as we wish. We repeat once a week, and for my part I can be present only once every 15 days

Northwinds – 'A Light for the Blind':

Northwinds and Barabbas aren't youngsters: all of you are adult men. How do you keep your form all these years, playing and creating new tunes quite constantly?

Sylvain: I don't know…As long as there is motivation, there is inspiration…As long as there is inspiration,…In Northwinds, we are very motivated to continue as far as we can. I think the renew interest in our music have given us a new motivation. Many many thanks to these people who are faithful thru' all these years and spread the word! A special note her to Andreas from Germany. Recently he created his own label and its first release is our demo from 95 in a beautiful vinyl package!! Don't hesitate to contact him via: Facebook

Thomas: Motivation and pleasure to play! The current line up is stable for over 10 years now, we know each other very well, and the creative process is based on improvisation, so during rehearsals the song and its structure appears obviously..

Yes, I wanted to ask about this re-release of your demo 'Northwinds' on Metalloscope Music: it was available only as a tape edition and then you got a cool vinyl. Did you remaster this album or record it anew?

Sylvain: A beautiful project done by Andreas, Northwinds fan nr1. The address: Metalloscope

The cover is very beautiful, Tim White's artwork is perfect for Northwinds' music 1995 era. Did you know his project of re-release our demo in a proper media was in his mind since 2004? His first tentative was a cdr. Beautiful enlightened by the Tim White cover used for the lp version. Incredible!

What is very important with the LP version is to hear the tracks in a remastered version, crystal clear sound; I even rediscover some parts of the songs. The mastering is very very respectful of the dynamic of the songs, no wall of sound, ultra compressed as it seems to be the norm today. But a lot of details are glorified, and believe me: it makes all the difference!

Northwinds was born in 1987! It's a bloody long road for the band… Don't you think that you could find a big label and reach for much more listeners if you put more efforts into the band's promotion? Though Black Widow is an excellent label, especially for Doom bands...

Sylvain: We are not the best on the promotional level, that's right,…Until now, our aim is to write our songs with total honesty, with emphasis on emotions. Black Widow offers it thru' the years: liberty. I really think that we would lose a lot by reaching a higher profile. On the other hand we are not youngsters…we have done the biggest part of the road…the road less traveled.

What did you do in the early '90s, and how did you come to your first demo-record 'Northwinds'?

Sylvain: From 86/87 to 89 Northwinds were R.I.P. It was a trio of friends, fans of Black Sabbath fueled music, trying to make songs together (Sebastien Thuriez, guitars, Rémi Rateau, bass and myself Sylvain Auvé, drums and vocals). Going out of our personnal rooms (to much noise, etc....) for a rehearsal room was a complete improvement (at the time we were eventually able to have money for that!). So in 90 our ambition was to rise above and to record something, but no way for us to have the amount of money to buy a 4 tracks recorder. Then we have included Vincent Niclas, the only musician fan of Black Sabbath/ St Vitus/ Candlemass we met. It was very easy to persuade him to join us. But Rémi had to leave us, then it was military service...we have tried some recording sessions on multi tracks, but it was awful (a waste of money). In 94 we decided to put money in a real studio and at the end of june 95, our first demo was in our hands!

All in all, we were happy to have waited such a long time, cos' our songs were not so bad and the perfect reflection at the time of our real influences, with a strong personality too, so...what we were aiming to! But we had seen the evolution and the new turns of the "doom metal" scene and suddenly we were not so sure we could call us "doom metal"...Do you know what I mean?

In 2015 the band is still there and labelled as "Doom metal". Cool, some people are not as narrow minded as some were years ago, not aware they could kill the scene they loved so much. And I hope the band will see 2020!

By the way, how did you get a contract with Black Widow? And how did you keep the collaboration through all these years?

Sylvain: They had listened to the first untitled demo and offered NORTHWINDS a recording contract with the sole proviso the band emphasizes the keyboards and flute presence . It was no problem for us cos we included Marco (flute, keys, accordeon, bombarde…) right after the release of our 1st demo in way to colored our music in an effective way. The "Great God Pan promo 96" being recorded already and matching the Black Widow demands, this quickly led us to the release of the NORTHWINDS first LP, "Great God Pan" in 1998.

It's the perfect label for us, cos they know about 70's, and their definition of "progressive" music is the same as ours. Next LP/CD will be on Black Widow. They give us a great liberty in many domains. I like to believe we are more than producers and musicians after all these years of common projects.

Northwinds/Marble Chariot – Split teaser video:

Can you remember the most remarkable events for Northwinds? What are the band's highlights?

Sylvain: Each member of the band would give you different events/highlights. I think our participation at the "Doom shall rise" fest' would be the choice of our keyboardist. I will say the day I've learned we would be part of the Death SS tribute, "Beyond the realm…", covering "Night of the witch".

Thomas: Personally, there are a lot! But I agree with Sylvain on our participation in the Doom shall Rise, it was great to share the stage with legendary bands like Count Raven, While Heaven Wept or Penance! Each new release is also a great time, it's a long process, so the feeling of accomplishment is great. And this year between the release of Eternal Winter, the split, and reissue of the first demo, there's a lot!

Northwinds is based in Paris; how is it to live there? Some people think that it's the "capital of fashion", some people saw "Banlieue 13" and think that the city is infested by migrants. How does it look from inside?

Thomas: Only Sylvain and Manu live in Paris. Thomas and me we live in the suburbs. It's pretty cool to live near Paris, beyond the fact that it is a very beautiful city, for concerts, this is a must, all the bands play there.

Fashion capital? Maybe but we're not really concerned in Northwinds by this kind of things ha-ha.

"Banlieue 13"? Ha-ha this movie is a joke. Seriously it is true that we heard a lot of things on migrants, including the famous no-go zone in Paris but this is bullshit, it's a pleasant town to live as I think many large cities.

Gentlemen, thank you for this interview: let's sum up – what are your plans for Northwinds' future?

Thomas: Thank you for this interview and the interest carried to Northwinds!

We constantly have projects in Northwinds but it still takes time to achieve them!

We are currently recording demos for the next album, already 4 songs are recorded (including Night of the Ritual and Talk to the Dead that we have already played live several times), and we have one or two songs to compose.

We also have another project called "Live ritual" where some new covers songs will be featured! And very soon, the release of Eternal Winter in vinyl.

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Northwinds bandpage.

Interviewed on 2015-12-29 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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