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Interview with L’ACÉPHALE

by Vpower

The Band: L’Acéphale

Country: United States



The always evolving and self-defining project of Set Sothis Nox La now sets out to unleash their new and self-titled album; ten years after their last full length. While staying committed to their extreme metal roots and historical, literary themes, We find also elements of monumental dark folk, black metal, and almost martial artforms.

Hello guys, L’ACÉPHALE is a project that has gone through several stages, for example you started as a solo project under the name Set Sothis Nox La?

The project is a solo recording project and sometimes live band. When there is a live incarnation we tend to work on material as a full band, which I enjoy very much. But there are also certain recordings that are easier as a solo exploration in sound. I have a lot of ideas of types of sound and songs I want to record. I have recorded sound as a solo entity for 30 years. I got my first 4 track cassette multitrack unit in 1989 and have been experimenting with sound ever since. Very little of it has ever been released. When I started working on Black Metal pieces under the title L’Acéphale I did decide to release the material. Before that, I was working with Carl Annala tracking similar Black Metal music as Hail. That material eventually came out as the ‘Crimson Madrigals’ release, some of the material we recorded together on a Cassette 8 track machine and some of it I recorded on my own.

L’Acéphale has been fairly inactive recently, slowly finishing the new release, After the European tour we will see what happens next and what the live band will become. Time will tell, there are many irons in the fire for what will be the next set of recordings to work on. Now that the current full length is complete I want to move forward on those.

Bands’s name «Acéphale» is French for «Headless», why did you choose it, if you remember it after almost 20 years of existence haha?

The band was named after the secret group and public journal that Georges Bataille, Michel Leiris, Laure, Andre Masson and others started in the late 1930’s. They set about creating a group that would re-invigorate the role of the sacred within their lives. They also sought to infuse this sacred into the larger world. A sacred that they defined as ‘fiercely religious,’ infused by the writings of Nietzsche and incorporating the taboo as noted within the writings of Émile Durkheim.

I have been influenced by the group for approximately three decades and still find their interests viable and pertinent to society today. I chose the name to reference that group and associate the goals of this musical project with their goals.

On April you are releasing your third album, the first after 10 years, although with some singles or Eps in the middle, right?

There has been a long birthing process for the new record. We started to record it in 2012 and for many reasons the recording has had delays here and there which stretched out the process for 6 years. The live band ceased to be active in 2013; the project has always been a recoding project, with some periods of time where we are active with live manifestations. I slowly worked with each of the musicians to complete the recording, allowing each member time to review and revise their parts before moving to the next step.

Some eps and compilation tracks came out between 2009 and now, but most of that material had been recorded before 2012. Each release was merely a way to finally see those recordings manifest into a physical release.

A self-titled album and a 74-minute magnum opus, how would you define it?

The material that is on the release consists of songs that were written between 2005 and 2012. The scope of the material not only cover a wide period of the bands history, but also across the range of music styles that I see as core influences behind the project: Black Metal, Dark Folk, Avant-Garde sound and Musique Concrete. Furthermore, the lyrics on the release more directly relate to the writings and ideas of the original group than ever before. In the process of developing, recording and assembling the release the record reached 81 minutes. The cd had to be revised to fit the format so the total release was edited down to 74 minutes. The cassette and LP versions contain the full release as recorded with slight variances between each format.

How long have you worked on it? Is it harder to resume the composition tasks after 10 years?

As mentioned above, we started recording it in 2012 and worked on periodically through 2018 when we achieved a final mix. The music itself covers a wide range of material that was developed by the live band over the years. The line-up that recorded the new release was active from 2010 through 2013. The material was developed over a two year period where we rehearsed regularly and performed live, completing one small tour of the West Coast of the U.S.. Due to the slow pace of recording and pauses between sessions members needed to re-learn their parts, but it also allowed us the time and space to focus on counter melodies or other elements within the songs. It allowed us to be creative in the recording process and further develop the songs as we went along.

You would consider this 3rd full-length as a new beginning?

I do. But it is also the closing of a door at the same time. A new beginning and an ending. A birth and a death. The path of the headless is a circuitous path through the forest. A foot falls on a mossy path to realize that there is no path but a dense forest where one must pick and choose their directions carefully and at times double back to traverse to the next destination. A destination that is of their own choosing and not a continuation of where others have travelled before. We are not the first humans in this forest world and the only unique offering we provide is but our current interpretation of where we have been and where we might like to go.

I really appreciate the wealth of shades in the rhythm base, a varied listen indeed

When writing music, I tend to let riffs guide me. Playing the guitar by myself and coming up with interesting melody lines, these are presented to the band and revisions and additions are made from there. I do like to write music that is not in standard timing at times. Having Charlie Mumma as our drummer is also fantastic as he is an amazing drummer with a wide range of interests and the ability to play drums in a wide range of music styles. He and I have very similar interests in music and extreme metal/punk. Together with the rest of the band we all share a very similar set of interests in music. That connection I allows us to navigate a wide range of sound and rhythms with it still feeling integrated as one piece, avoiding it feel like a fusion or mash up of different styles.

Seven songs and an average duration of 9 or 10 minutes each track talks well about your ability to give form to rich compositions

I find it hard to comment on our abilities. Each song was written individually. ‘Winternacht’ was written at a time when the band sought out to really create a long complex piece with many styles. Other songs also ended up being longer songs by the time they were finished as well. I have felt from the beginning that the release chose to the what it was. Early on, the collection of songs made sense thematically and the order of the songs were set in my mind before we started recording. In fact, ‘Last Will’ was written specifically to be where it is in the record and provide the role that a song at that place in the record demanded.

At times, I thought about eliminating songs to make the release shorter or get rid of songs that were not the metal songs. But that never made sense and the release ‘in total’ was meant to be as it is.

Any favorite in the album?

I do not have a favorite. I really see the release as a dynamic flow, where each song leads to the next and each song fills the role that each song should. There are things I like about each song and include parts that I am proud of. The range of styles over the course of the record is wide so each song sort of fills a stylistic element I was hoping to cover and I like each one.

What are the lyrics about?

That is a big question, the lyrics fall into two general categories. Lyrics that deal with concepts that directly relate to the ideas and writings of the original Acéphale group and then other lyrics are related to literary sources that I have been inspired by. For the later category, ‘Runenberg’ is derived from a short story published in 1797 by the German writer Ludwig Tieck. It is a curious little story that falls into the literary tradition of German Romanticism. The story is about a man seduced by the calls of the wild and a nature spirit that he meets in the mountain. That is a poor summation of the story but will need to suffice for now. ‘Winternacht’ is based on a few poems by the Austrian poet Georg Trakl. All the poems deal with the metaphorical relationship between winter and man. Trakl’s style and poetry is utterly fantastic and feel very close to the spirit of Black Metal. ‘Hark! The Battle-Cry is Ringing!’ Is based on a poem/song that H.S. Salt wrote for the I.W.W. as a union song. It was chosen to reference the leftist political orientation of the original group and this project.

The other category of lyrics more directly related to the original Acéphale group. ‘Sovereignty’ is based on writings by Laure (Colette Peignot) who was a member of the group along with her lover Georges Bataille. She had a profound influence on the group and the song explores many of her ideas she wrote at the time of her involvement with the group. ‘Gloria in Excelsis Mihi,’ the beginning quote on ‘Sovereignty,’ and the main metal lyrics for ‘Last Will’ are poems that Georges Bataille wrote around the time of Acéphale. The later part of ‘Last Will’ is a poem of the same name by Nietzsche. It seemed to fit the ideas of Laure and Bataille quite well, both of them were profoundly influenced by the writings of Nietzsche and his writing was a central focus of the original group. ‘Sleep’ is also written from the perspective of the original group, but they are lyrics I wrote specifically for the piece.

The cover design is great and shares the emotions of your music

Markus worked on the designs for the record. Not only has he been a member of the group for some 15 years or more, but we have discussed the ideas going into the record at length. I love his specific style and they resonate closely to the work that Andre Masson did with the original group. Both their illustrative styles work very well together. When Markus revealed his designs to me I was thrilled they are perfect.

Black Metal is supposed to have a live scene more intense in Europe than in the US, do you think so?

Historically, the Black Metal scene has always been weighted to Europe, it is after all the birthplace of the genre. I feel that the U.S. and North America more generally has had a few good bands going back to the beginning of Black Metal. I feel that in recent years the quality and number of bands from this continent has increased. I feel that there are still some notable differences between the countries of origin and their scenes. But more scenes seem to be losing the direct association to country of origin. I feel that the distance between cities in North America make it more difficult to have a good live scene across the country. The Pacific Northwest has a particularly vibrant live scene, but it seems that only a few people know about all the bands here, instead they only know about a couple specific bands that have toured more extensively. I feel that distance and cost to tour in the U.S. prohibit a more active live scene.

Planning a tour around?

Perhaps, the tour of Europe has been something that I have wanted to happen for a very long time. But band members and other obligations made it impossible. We shall see, I am more interested in working on a back catalog of material that has been developed since we started recording the new record. Recording that material is more important to me than touring and playing older material.

Thank you very much, if you wish to add something…

Thanks so much! I have nothing else to add.

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