In January French metallers Assent released We Are The New Black. DutchMetalManiac’s Alessandro already reviewed it for you here. Now he interviews Aurel, who is responsible for the vocals, bass and drum programming in Assent, you can read it below.
Guys, I’m very honoured to be granted this interview! A very good album here. So tell us about the “ascent of ASSENT!”
Hi there! The honour is all mine, thank you very much for your enthusiastic review! The project started in 2016 when my former band Human Vacuum split up. I was suddenly on my own and I had a ton of old songs lying in my computer in Guitar Pro format, stuff I had written along the years but never used because it didn’t fit with my former band’s style (which was more nu-metal). I can’t stay without an active musical project since it makes my hair and skin go bad. So I began to make a selection among those songs and rewrite over them. After a few months of working alone I presented the songs to Greg (guitars) and there we are.
How and where’d you meet?
Greg used to be my boss. We both worked in retail in the same video game store and we hit it off instantly. We already had an acoustic cover band together before starting Assent.
Are you both actually friends or is it just business?
We’re close friends. I got hired in that store where he was assistant manager in 2012, and we realized after a few hours that we had so many common points it was uncanny. Same love for metal, same love for video games obviously, same sense of humour, same work ethic (which now proves crucial for the band), etc. It was a match made in heaven. I knew he was a very good guitar player so when I became available and needed someone he’s the first and only person I considered. Luckily, he loved the songs instantly.
Is the world a better place with all this new technology for spreading the gift of music or was it better to copy LP’s to cassettes and spread it around? Which sounds better to you?
That’s a tough one. I’m 37 so I do remember the old days, where you had to buy your music first and listen to it later, read reviews in magazines, copy your records on tapes and so on. Unsigned bands would go unnoticed for decades unless the right person got the right tape, and there were less bands around because of the money and skills barrier. Nowadays there’s a band at every corner because it’s so much easier to make music and get it spread around (I mean, look at us!) but it doesn’t make it easier because the market is saturated. There’s one aspect that makes me think things haven’t changed that much: money is still the decisive factor. In the old days only bands that could afford to record an album on their own to get it sent to labels had a chance. Nowadays only bands that can afford to buy a promotion plan and pay for Youtube views have a chance. I could make Assent become huge overnight if I had the funds, through paid social media harassment alone. Different system but same criteria I guess.
Your music is guttural and raw yet, I find, going to progressive lines. Which one influences this?
Well, I’m the sole songwriter in Assent so that would be me! As a songwriter and as a music fan, that’s pretty much my ideal. I’ve always been attracted to catchy and progressive music. I love violence, groove and technicality… at some point my favourite albums were Dream Theater’s Scenes From a Memory and Korn’s Issues. So that’s what I’ve tried to achieve with Assent, and I’m really happy to get this comment from you.
Without being disrespectful to a band’s originality, I always like to cite some influences that my ear picks out or I think picks out; do you guys do this when you’re working out your arrangements? Who are your favourite bands but not necessarily influences?
Nowadays I’m deeply in love with bands such as Madder Mortem and Destrage because of what I told you in my previous answer. That’s exactly what they manage to pull off: songs that get in your face and make you jump around, while still being full of strange ideas, uncanny parts and innovation. I don’t think they’re an inspiration for the EP because a lot of it was written before I’d even discovered those bands. The very first part I wrote was the verse riff for Remain in Darkness fifteen years ago, and back then I was a huge Paradise Lost fan. And it shows, it’s pure gothic metal! I think another big influence I had during the writing process was Soilwork: listen to A Part of Me by us, then go listen to Needlefeast by them, and I think the similarities will appear clear as day. It’s kinda hard to pinpoint a band beyond that because the EP was written on such a long period of time… some songs started out in 2003, some in 2008, all of them were reworked in 2016, and I’ve listened to many bands in the meantime that may or may not have influenced me.
Tell us about your guest artists F. Lemonnier and N. Muller! Are they going on tour with you?
I hired Florentin from the band Far Away for two reasons. Firstly, I needed someone who could play fast bass with a pick on the first song. The song required it, I play fingerstyle myself and I was too lazy to learn to play with a pick just for the EP. Secondly, I knew Flo can play the bass and growl at the same time, and I knew I would need someone like that for the live line-up at some point. So having him as a guest was a way to get him involved with the project and secure him as our future live bass player. And since he plays with us now, that mission has been a success. Nicolas is the mastermind behind Helioss and a very accomplished player who already performed a guest solo on Human Vacuum’s album. I would love to have him as part of the live line-up, but he’s a recluse who writes and records music on his own in his bedroom and hates playing onstage. Some people are just weird that way.
At what stage of your production do you decide that a particular sound is the one you want?
I had a clear vision of what I wanted productionwise: our producer Zoé H. was tasked to find the perfect balance between heaviness and clarity. What I told him was “I want this to rip faces off BUT I want everything played by every instrument clearly audible. And I want to hear the bass. Give me something modern, sharp, where every subtle arrangement can be studied with headphones on. And don’t forget that bass. Basically it’s whatever works as long as it’s loud and crystal clear. Oh, did I mention the bass ?” And the guy delivered. He presented us with options during the whole recording process, I told him to turn up the bass… good times.
Speaking of stages, you’re not on an especially heavy tour schedule as of yet; are there more dates lined up for this year? Any chance you’re coming to Canada?
We’ve played one gig and we have another lined up, and that’s it for the moment. It’s kinda hard to get gigs in Paris because the scene is completely saturated. There’s a metal gig every night somewhere, and venues are flooded with requests from bands like us. When you’re starting out you’re not gonna bring many people because you’re unknown, so booking you is a risk organizers must be willing to take. It’s a conundrum: you need to get famous to bring an audience, but you need to play in order to get famous. We’re actually lucky because our live bass player Florentin has a booking agency on the side, without him there would have been no gigs at all. I’ll come play wherever so like every other band around I’m just gonna say it: PLEASE BOOK US. Just give us money for the journey since gasoline isn’t cheap and we need food in order to survive. But if you’re willing to take a chance and have us play at your venue, let it be in Canada or Zimbabwe or anywhere, book us and we’ll come.
I want to thank you so much for taking the time for us!
As we go, give us “Assent’s Assertions” for 2017:
1. WW III or Peace on Earth?
WWIII is coming our way fast, so please make sure you buy a lot of our records before it happens.
2. Aliens Land – Aliens Keep On Going?
One of them is President of the United States as we speak.
3. Music Industry Better – Music Industry Worse
I’d say worse. Some platforms work well (Bandcamp is a fantastic place for musicians and they’re successful, kudos to them), but overall the system still has to find a way to allow musicians to make a living. We still pay to record, pay to play, pay for everything and don’t get much back. The Assent EP alone is 4000€ I won’t get back, ever. It was my choice, but it’s not sustainable as an economic model. And it’s the same for everyone.
4. French Champagne or Canadian Beer?
I’ll go with French Champagne, but that’s only because I haven’t tried enough Canadian beers yet. Please educate me in that matter, my mind may change.
5. Currently reading….which books?
I used to read books, but then Zelda Breath of The Wild came out and now I can’t remember what a page looks like.
Thank you again for taking important time to talk to me. Do you have any last comments for DutchMetalManiac’s readers? All the best success!
Thank YOU for the time you took reviewing our EP and preparing these questions. I hope everybody on DutchMetalManiac will give the EP a chance, you can listen to it in full on everything (Deezer, YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud, Bandcamp…) and just getting comment is a reward in itself for us. If you want to give us some support the digital version is only 3€ on Bandcamp so knock yourself out. In general please always consider buying stuff from the bands you love as long as they don’t try to rip you off: a shirt, a digital album, a sticker, a keychain, whatever… every little helps, really. We’re poor bastards who fell in love with the wrong music genre.