As Alcest, a band who pioneered their very specific sound of black metal-esque dreamscapes, finished up the tour for their latest album, Kodama, we found some time to sit down with Neige, the main brain in the group on vocals and guitar, to talk anime, femininity, and the state of the species.
It’s an interesting choice having The Body open up on this tour. How’d that come to be?
Neige: Yeah, we picked them because I heard the last album of The Body [No One Deserves Happiness] and I really liked it, so I wanted to have this band on tour because they are obviously very different, and we like different. We don’t want to play with another metal band.
Cool. How’s that dynamic been working out?
Neige: It’s great; they have this nightmarish sound, and then we arrive with more dreamy stuff, so it’s really cool; it’s like night and day.
For a while there, your albums seemed to put more and more emphasis on the prettier sides of your sound, but this one really reverses the trend on that.
Neige: We don’t like to do the same record over and over. Shelter was very pretty, as you say, very dreamy, etc., but we wanted to explore something different. The world has changed too, y’know? Our lives have changed. We had a terrorist attack in Paris, just where I live. Some things happen and it has an influence on musicians. Shelter was so soft that we obviously wanted to do something a bit more dynamic.
I remember reading that this album was also influenced by Princess Mononoke. Do you feel like the themes of that movie are reflected in the world around you?
Neige: Yeah, I think that people are being more and more self-centered, and they just care about themselves and their little programs and politics. There are very few people that still have this connection with nature. It’s something that we must not forget because that’s where we come from. If there is no nature, there is no humanity, so we have to be a bit careful.
You’ve said that the albums before this one have been inspired by your experiences with this other dream-world. Is that still the case here?
Neige: It’s not really related; it’s a bit different, but this thing that I had has left a very big impression, and it’s probably responsible for the melodies in Alcest, even if I’m not consciously speaking about it. It’s a part of me. Anything I do with Alcest will be connected to this world; it’s not just a dream.
Yeah, sorry, I wasn’t sure what the right word would be there. Vision, er…
Neige: Dreamworld is fine because it’s impossible to really know what it is.
Anyway, so this was inspired by Mononoke, but you’re not just re-telling that story-
Neige: No, no, no. It’s a little bit inspired, but it’s not like a concept album. It’s just this theme I told you about, this conflict between humans and nature, that’s what interests me in this movie, and that’s a theme in the record too. It’s also a tribute to my love for Japanese culture that I’ve always had since I was a child.
What elements of Japanese culture do you think found expression in the album?
Neige: The visuals, the visual side. That was inspired by this artist Takato Yamamoto, a Japanese illustrator. Our visuals on this record are very much inspired by his form. We’ve been traveling to Japan two times. We played in a temple. It was a really strong, spiritual thing. It’s a different world, y’know? Everything that transports me to a different reality than the one I know is inspiring. I’m always looking for something more.
How did that show come together? Were some monks big fans of yours?
Neige: I don’t know how it exactly happened, but I know these places used to have shows, maybe one show per month, and we were lucky enough to be part of this. It was probably the best experience we’ve had with this band.
You said you feel an affinity with the character San in Mononoke, right?
Neige: Yeah, the female character.
Do you feel like – I’m not quite sure how to phrase this – that the problem in nature is the human species itself or maybe just something wrong in our psychologies?
Neige: I’m not the misanthropic type; I love people, just in general, you know? I love to speak with people. I’m really not like “Oh, we are a plague on this planet” and this stuff. It’s more complex than that. We are not way better than any other species, but we are not absolute crap either; we are making very beautiful things. The problem is that we all want different things. Some people just care about money and some other people are much more advanced. I also believe in this idea of the age of a soul; some people are very young, and some people are very old. I think we are here to learn things and we come back or maybe go somewhere else over and over to learn things. Some people just need a few more lessons. For me, I am my biggest enemy. I always focus on the flaws, and I’m always trying to be a better person. We all have a dark side and bright side.
I just found that connection between you and San interesting, because her character is very warlike, whereas you strike me as much more reasonable fellow.
Neige: Well, that’s the context of the movie, I guess; she’s at war with the human world. What’s interesting is she is human; she has just been raised by the animals in the forest, but she’s a part of this human world. That’s what makes her so interesting: she’s not an animal; she’s human, but she’s not completely human either. She has both sides and she’s a bit like the link in-between the two worlds. Also, I love strong female characters. It’s something that inspires me and helps me to connect with my own female side. Every guy has a female side, even the guy who says “Oh, no, I’m just like a dude.” We all have something, and it’s very interesting to explore this side when you have to make art, because it’s a very different feel.