BEAST AS GOD (itw w/ singer Jérémie)

by Jean (xjtx)

Jérémie left our hometown almost more than a decade ago for Nottingham, England. We start writting to each other on social networks a couple of years ago because we actually share a lot of mutual friends and we met during summer 2014 – he brought me ENDLESS GRINNING SKULLS and DEAD IN THE WOODS records and BOSTON STRANGLER promo tape because he’d just seen them in England.

We also share common music tastes, from d-beat to metalcore through other stuffs like space rock. It seemed natural to me to show an interest in his own band BEAST AS GOD – which is a great crossover of various inspirations, from japanese hardcore (DEATH SIDE, JUDGEMENT, GISM…) to 90s metallic hardcore and crust punk (THE SWARM, MÖRSER, HIS HERO IS GONE, UNRÜH, CATHARSIS…). Once, Jérémie told me you definitly need to listen to bands who show a “metallic approach” only if they’re punx… Picture this, folks!

(NB: there is actually another excellent BEAST AS GOD interview on the Internet here, that’s why this interview will probably look more like a friendly chat than a “professional” interview!)

1-Fuck Jeremie! Starting this list of questions I have to admit I needed to read that DESTROYED HUMANS interview (published on Tuesday, August 12 2014) a second time because this stuff is just SO accomplished (attention readers and followers: in my humble opinion you’d better read that DH itw if you want to know what BEAST AS GOD exactly is)… So let me start with a little trick (kind like Jimmy Fallon): tell me the exact reason why you love BARONESS latest LP (“Yellow &Green”, on Relapse Records)

Thanks Jean, yes, that DH interview allowed me to lay the foundation of BaG, glad you enjoyed it! OK, so, of to your trick question. Here goes: first of, I love Yellow, Green doesn’t do as much for me, with one exception, we’ll get back to that one later.

BARONESS is a band I have followed from the beginning, I am involved with The 593 Collective (a semi-defunct Nottingham promotion collective, we like it heavy, fast, weird or slow) and we got to put a couple of early gigs for them, on tours with CAPRICORNS and TORCHE, the gig with TORCHE at the Old Angel especially was phenomenal.

Up to and including Blue, their progression was almost flawless. Defining that HHIG meets KING CRIMSON thing they had over the early EPs then the Red album was a solidification of that, but also exposed some weaknesses. The guitar work was astonishing, but the song writing at times a bit directionless, the record came out as a riff collection more than a bunch of songs. Also, there was a risk that vocally, John was going to go the Isis way, which is too lose the power of the primal screamer, but not be a good enough singer to bring melodies. With Blue, they remedied both those shortcomings, the song writing is so much tighter, and by having Peter harmonising with John vocals, they dodged the ISIS trap in style.

Which brings us to Y&G, at first listen, I was majorly let down… gone was any hint of the old BARONESS, the monolithic power, replaced by QOTSA type rock workout, not thanks.

But then it downed on me that if they had given us Blue pt. 2, it would have been a betrayal on the progressive nature of their catalogue, and after a couple of listens, I got it: Y&G is an excellent rock album, one only very tangentially rooted in underground punk and metal, and much more rooted in Southern rock, but great nonetheless… also, you know, I am a middle aged dad, so yeah, it is about time I start embracing the dad rock 😀

Listening to Green after Yellow always feels too understated for me, with the exception of a couple of songs, which I am sure could have been integrated with Yellow. It only worked for me once, driving back toward my parents’ house in Bordeaux from a day trip in Dordogne, with partner and kids asleep in the car, Green came through at half volume, and it fitted the moment perfectly…

Is that enough, am I excused? 😉

2-Honestly, since we know each other I think I can ask you this: BEAST AS GOD 4 songs demo tape (released on Viral Age on November 13 2014) is, of course, sold out so, why the hell can’t we listen to any new material from BEAST AS GOD?? I mean it’s cool to draw your inspiration from both Japanese hardcore punk and 90’s crust/metal bands but when will you releasing a motherfucking LP for Goat’s sake?? (It’s 11:12 am, on a Saturday morning, I need my cup of tea)

Soon dude, but not that soon! Take a break, have that cup of tea.

Things take a looong time with BEAST AS GOD: we’re all busy people, with kids, jobs, other bands, etc… This band was never set up to be a full time concern. As we stand, we’ve got more than half a LP worth of songs written, we’re still writing some new stuff, but Steve, our drummer, is going for a scholarship in Chile this summer, so we will have to “break” a new drummer in, it will take some work to regain momentum. The plan was to focus on playing some gigs and do some recordings before Steve elopes, but Matt (guitar) hurt himself pretty badly on his bike, and now, until bones are healed and we have a new drummer in, I am not sure what will happen… but we will be back, soon.

In the meantime, we’ve recorded a live set at Stuck On A Name studio when we played with XREPENTANCEX, RENOUNCED, IN TONGUES, BLIND AUTHORITY, etc. which came out great so we are planning to release it as a CDr on Brazilian label Psychic Rebellion. Some of the new material can be heard on it on a rough and ready form.

We also have a plan to record one last song with Steve on drums for a split 7” but we’ll have to wait a bit for Matt’s bones to be healed before we can finish the recording.

3-If you are working on something, what is the evolution of BEAST AS GOD.

Like I said, we are writing some new stuff. The evolution? Maybe a hint less Japanese hardcore influences and more traditional thrash? I don’t know: some songs have a strong early SEPULTURA/SACRILEGE thing to my hears, with of course a large dose of SLAYER too. But then, some tracks have got more of that brutal 90’s Bremen/Stalingrad vibe, and some of that BREACH, KISS IT GOODBYE discordance to it as well…

I am not the best person to describe it, you’ll have to wait.

4-I know BEAST AS GOD shares members with plenty of local bands from Nottingham, can you tell me which bands we are dealing with?

It seems that any band you’re related to actually worships a specific section of rock’n’roll history, let’s say from HAWKWIND to HIS HERO IS GONE for example…

Like most punk/hardcore/etc scene, Nottingham has a very incestuous scene.

Steve, our current drummer plays in AKALLABETH, a Tolkien theme scream band, in the vein of YAPHET KOTTO.

Boulty, who plays bass is in a million bands, among which CARCOSA, who play raging grindcore. He also runs Stuck On A Name studio where a lot of British hardcore bands have been recording, and who hosts ace gigs at the weekend in a great DIY space.

The other Steve on guitar plays in MOLOCH, a devastating sludge/hatecore band and Matt, the other guitarist plays keyboards in NADIR a weird psychedelic kraut sludge band in which I do vocals and abuse a Theremin. He is also working on a yet unnamed solo project which sounds like John Carpenter’s score and FUCK BUTTON later output, great if you are into that kind of stuff.

You’re not wrong on the influence thing, but as much as I love HIS HERO IS GONE (which is a lot), I think you can trace back the influence to AMEBIX and BLACK SABBATH, and yes, HAWKWIND. I have lived most of my adult life in England, and those bands for me have got a profound English atavism, maybe less at the forefront of what I do with BEAST AS GOD, but still, always there as an under layer. KILLING JOKE and DISCHARGE are never far either.

In a way, BEAST AS GOD is bit of a throwback: my first band in Nottingham was PLAGUE, a band somewhere between TRAGEDY and ENVY. We learned a lot from that band, but in hindsight, we’d limited ourselves by insisting we were a “genre” band. Then, our drummer quit and we started DEAD IN THE WOODS, with Henry who used to sing in ARMY OF FLYING ROBOTS on drums, with that band, we opened our horizons, bringing more influences, especially HAWKWIND, via ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE, and early PINK FLOYD (another very British influence). What had happened is that through life getting in the way, we had a period of barely being active, just practicing for the sake of being in the room together, playing music with friends, as gigs or even recordings looked uncertain, we’d jam with whoever could make it in the room that day. This opened a lot of doors, and we learnt that we could stay true to ourselves while bringing in more classis rock/psychedelic influences.

Through people moving away, DITW ended and we started NADIR, which dropped the heavier, crust influences of DITW and went further into the psych side of things. And after a while, I had an itch to do something more straightforward, drop the progressive elements and come back to the honesty, the simplicity of hardcore punk as a way to channel out some very negative things which had happened in my life, and which make the basis of the demo’s lyrics.

But I think if Matt and I are in a band together, then, HAWKWIND is bound to show its influence at some point…

5-Once you told me that metallic hardcore must be played by punks which is – in my opinion – a huge utopia! I know this kind of music is your real love – you’ve discovered, back to the time you lived in France, stuffs like KDS Crew/OVERCOME records (from Rennes) or KICKBACK (from Paris) who were those who brought that metallic hardcore sound from NYC or Cleveland during the 90s, mainly due to the cathartic aspect of that sound and attitude (moshpit, “Karate Dance Style”, the hip-hop motto inspired by bands like BIOHAZARD for example)… I wasn’t there at the time, but, in my humble opinion – it seems that you were not a lot to be inspired by the “punk/DIY” aspect of that subculture (like CATHARSIS – who aren’t French, though – for example)?

I stand by it, metal has been the best and the worth thing to happen to hardcore/punk. In a way, it brought more power, epic scope and advanced musicianship, but if you go too far, it brings a lot of bullshit with it, and you stop being hardcore. Or worth, hardcore just becomes a subgenre of metal, the horror!

From AMEBIX to STARKWEATHER, through GISM, NEUROSIS, CATHARSIS, GEHENNA, SACRILEGE, etc. a lot of the music that resonates the most with me is metal being played by punk kids, and sometimes maybe the other way round, but with enough punk energy, and the final product is neither punk nor metal, but something else…

I discovered hardcore at uni, I was into punk rock as a kid and by 16/17 getting into harder and faster things (the bar I used to go to in high school in Périgeux, a small country town not far from Bordeaux, had the BURNING HEADS first LP and NoFX “White thrash, two Heebs and a Bean” in the jukes box) and got introduced to the more “tough guy” side of things through a mate at Uni, he was in touch with David from STORMCORE (the French answer to 25 TA LIFE) who went on to create Overcome records. I liked a lot of the music from that scene, but some of the attitude was not for me (karate dancing, the hiphop macho postering, the “crews”, etc… still it was David enthusiasm that won me over, and made me understand that I could be an actor in the music I loved, and did not need to just be a consumer. So with my friend (Loic, who went on to co-create Overcome with David) we organised gigs for STORMCORE and OUT FOR BLOOD (Brussel band who sounded like NEGLECT, the singer Alain ran RPP record, they put out the first ARKANGEL MCD), SEEKER OF THE TRUTH, etc… At the same time, I was becoming friend with people from the DIY, politicised side of things, and liked some of the bands (FINGERPRINT, UNDONE,ÖPSTAND, etc.) and people but the politics were a bit too much for me at times, and people were taking things too far (seating down at gigs to create safer space, in hardcore?), so yeah, I felt a bit trapped between two camps. Then in short succession, CATHARSIS, GEHENNA and STALINGRAD played in Bordeaux, all bands shared a thick metallic sound, and an angry, confrontational approach to live gigs that was neither the posturing of tough guys, nor the guilt tripping of the other side, just in your face, hard as fuck hardcore punk, you know? I was hooked.

(My personal views about BaG demo when I was trying to make my own fanzine in 2013)

They have almost been wiped out of the story, but there were kindred spirits in France. HEADWAY from Toulouse were a very important band, they sounded somewhere between BLOODLET and early CONVERGE, with some long, snakelike songs reminiscing of STARKWEATHER, unfortunately they never recorded with a correct production, and the few tracks they documented suffer from that. They later mutated into a post rock/free jazz project. ANANDA started as a French emo band, but toward the end, they had incorporated influences from HHIG, ENTOMBED, DAMNATION AD, etc. and where great live, one last band in that style were CHILDREN, on the demo, the sound like UNBROKEN and DAMNATION AD, they were ace live. They changed singer and went toward a more BOTCH/early CAVE IN thing later, and recorded a CD for Overcome records, but once again suffered the French curse, and the production is so poor, it make the record almost unlistenable, the only track can listen to with that line-up is on a split 7” with CAVE IN (CAVE IN’s track is a techno remix and not worth mentioning).

6-Is BEAST AS GOD the 2010s missing link of both punk and metallic hardcore subcultures?

Nope, BEAST AS GOD is 5 friends playing music. After that, maybe, listen for me, metallic hardcore IS punk anyway. It baffles me that people might think otherwise.

7- Now what do you think of SACRILEGE or CULTURE (in my opinion both bands are involved in the global metallic hardcore punk culture) releasing new material in 2015?

I haven’t hear any new music worth mentioning from either band, so I can’t comment much, aside from the fact that they are two great bands, so the stakes are high.

Now on the reformation thing in general. It is weird isn’t it, this wave of internet-enabled nostalgia? Some middle aged dude discovering that embarrassing punk band you did with the lads 20 years ago still has a rabid following, and since the kids are old enough now, why not do it again? Or people who could not bear to be in the same room when the band ended, but hey, the realisation of mortality and encroaching middle age comes with the realisation that you only have one shot at it, or just plain greed…. They are so many reasons why you should not!

If you’ve kept in touch with music, then start a new band (see the HERESY/GERIATRIC UNIT guys) not surf that wave.

That said, I went to see AMEBIX in 2008 and they were as awesome as I wanted them to be, and I love Sonic Mass (I wait for the TAU CROSS album with trepidation!)

8-Since we’re both French can you explain why “Eulogie”’s lyrics on BEAST AS GOD demo are written in French? Actually in sounds weird to me to hear that language – I’m used ot hear French lyrics when I am listening to emo/emoviolence bands not metallic hardcore! (By the way, I find a lot of similarities between your singing and CORTEZ!)

Well, like you, I used to associate singing in French with the emo/scream scene, street punk/oi or worst “alternative rock” or rap-metal, not metallic hardcore. The single point in time when I changed my mind was listening to IRE first EP in 97 (check them out, awesome 90s band from Montreal, which became THE BLACK HAND). Radwan, the band’s singer is of Lebanese origin, so he used the three tongues he speaks, English, French and Arabic on this EP, to great effect. Later ANANDA was another inspiration, they went from being a typical French emo band, with weeping style vocals, to be much heavier, while still only singing in French. So when I started singing in bands, I have always made sure to have at least one song in French on every release we made, I can speak fluently in two languages, it is important for me to express myself in both. That said, French is not always a good fit with heavy/fast music, so I only use it if I feel it fits a specific song.

I wasn’t aware of CORTEZ, yes, I can see the similarity in the delivery, but it is certainly not intentional.

9- Something I really want to insist on concerning the English hardcore/punk scene in my opinion is that the most efficient Euro scene. I’ve been into a lot of CARRY The WEIGHT releases for months (RENOUNCED, XREPENTANCEX, DIGRESS…) I also just want to move to Leeds because of that increasing hardcore spirit reigning all over there… what is your opinion concerning this feeling?

Man it is great to be into hardcore in the UK at the moment!

DIY has never been better. I am sure most of the people reading this blog are aware of many great UK bands right now. But for me, what really makes it very special is the network of great punk run venues, studios, labels, etc.

In the 15 years I have been here, things have never been better. When I started promoting in Nottingham, we used to have to rely on dodgy pubs, etc. now, we have places like The Lughole in Sheffield, Temple of Boom or Wharf Chamber in Leeds, the 1in12 in Bradford, Stuck On A Name Studios in Nottingham.

Leeds seems super active at the moment, with a new great band starting every month or so, I was lucky to catch HIGHER POWER play a mini set at the XREPENTANCEX release show and they were amazing! That kind of LEEWAY influenced melodic metal influenced hardcore is hard to pull well, without being a cheesefest, and they do it perfectly…

I could stand there, and tell you how I have issues with the fact that too much attention is focused on the NWOBHC bands, and how I have some issues with part of that scene flirting with skinhead jingoism (I don’t like flags, unless they are black…), etc. but let’s be real, it is great to see things happening, good bands getting their due, etc.

And as for the things I don’t like? I have a mouth large enough to let people know, and we can have a grown up debate about it, that’s what we do in hardcore, right?

10- I have no further questions Jeremie, if you wanna add something… Thanks and cheers!

Not really, thanks for the interview!

Listen to DRY HEAVES (Sheffield garage influenced hardcore), ENDLESS GRINNING SKULLS (Nottingham based and long-time friends, DISCHARGE meets GAUZE meets RUDIMENTARY PENI) and IN TONGUES (Glasgow’s heaviest, they sound is somewhere between DISEMBODIED and CATHARSIS).

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