Interview: Svart Crown

On February the 7th Svart Crown released their new album, titled Wolves Among the Ashes. DutchMetalManiac’s Tim van Velthuysen recently reviewed that album here. Before their show with Gost in Stroomhuis, Eindhoven, The Netherlands on March the 8th, of which you can read his live review here, he also sat down with Svart Crown’s frontman/guitarist/vocalist JB Le Bail and guitarist/vocalist Clément Flandrois for an interview.

Hey, how is the tour going so far?

JB: It’s going pretty good. It’s like a smaller show, but it’s really nice. We were getting really great responses every night. The package is nice. I think we’re doing a pretty decent show every day and it’s getting better and better every night.

Are you also looking forward to tonight’s show?

JB: Yes, of course, it’s our first Dutch show for the new album. Since like a few years the response here in The Netherlands has been better and better. So, we’ll see.

You’re touring with Gost. It’s a band that has some similarities with metal but also some other influences. What do you think about them?

JB: I think it’s a pretty good band who’s making an interesting journey musically because they’re changing a lot album after album. It may not be my personal taste, but I think that what they’re doing is great and the show is great.

Clémens: It’s very professional on stage. I think they got a lot to manage before a tour, because it’s electronic stuff. So, it’s pretty well composed, but it’s dependent on what kind of music you listen. It’s not my favorite thing.

It has the same intensity though.

Both: Yeah, they have.

JB: They’re putting a lot of energy in it. It’s an interesting package I think.

When you compare touring with another metal band and touring with a band that is a bit more far away from metal, like Gost, what are the pros and cons of this approach?

JB: I don’t really see it like that, it’s just an opportunity. We had the opportunity to do this tour with them. The idea came to the table and it was just yes or no. We had some other opportunities and it was maybe time to try a new thing. We always tour with metal bands that are older, way older and bigger. Sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it’s not so cool.

Clémens: I think it’s another kind of crowd coming to this kind of shows.

JB: It’s a different crowd.

Clémens: So, maybe we can open some doors within another crowd.

It’s more mixed?

Clémens: Yes, it’s more mixed. This way we can maybe introduce our music to some other kind of people. So, I think it’s pretty good.

JB: It’s also a matter of package and internal condition. We have a really small touring crew with one man which makes things way easier for everybody. We can play a longer set, even if it’s a small production crew. So, it was really important for us to bring this to the table and to do this for this new album. I think the audience is changing in the metal and we can see that with all these synthwave things, it’s mixing. So, I think, with what we are doing now musically, it’s pretty interesting.

Clémens: It’s working, it’s just working.

JB: It’s working, yeah.

JB, two years ago you were almost on your own in Svart Crown, which seemed like a pretty difficult period. Did you learn something from that time that you want to give as an advice for other bands that are in similar situation?

JB: Yeah, two years ago we just finished the tour with Rotting Christ. The line-up situation back then was a little bit tricky because we didn’t have a fixed drummer. We were like “what can we do now?” When you don’t have a full line-up, the perspective of future is a little bit complicated because you cannot really see or know what you want to do next. You can’t really perform live, you can’t really project yourself on the next six months or a year for writing an album. That was the main problem. I don’t know if I can give any advice about it because we tried to solve the problem internally with our own skills. That went pretty well. We now fixed all the lineup issues and it’s going pretty well.

Yeah, because your drummer Nicolas “Ranko” Muller and Clémens rejoined. What does it mean for Svart Crown to have them back?

JB: It was not that everyone left at the same time like, as you sometimes see with bands, that there is big problem and all the lineup is gone. It was just a member after a member who left. First the drummer left so Ranko came back but at first only for some shows. After those he decided to do the album and after that he came back again. For Clémens, he can speak by himself, but at first we needed a guy for last year’s tour, because our guitarists were not able to do it. Our ex-guitarist brought it to the table like maybe you should do it with him. It was very okay.

Clémens: It was very okay. I left the band for some reason three years earlier, playing my own project and composing my own stuff. So, it was really important when I was leaving the band. After that time I did some session for the tour. It’s more easier because I know the band from the inside. So, it was pretty easy for me to come back.

JB: As well as for us.

Clémens: When you come back it’s more easier, you have a lot of clue on what you can do, what’s possible and you can work together for the new album really easy. JB called me again for like two or three months before the studio. So, it was pretty urgent. It was pretty easy because you know each other already.

JB: We were used to each other and we know how to work with each other. It’s really easy. Sometimes we don’t really need communication, it’s just like looking at each other’s faces. It made things way easier and I think now everyone is feeling home in the band. The project also evolved a bit when they weren’t part of it. So yeah, it weren’t obvious choices. It could have been done differently. But I think at this moment we wanted to have something stable and wanted to play with people that you know, friends, people from your area, French people. It’s not really easy sometimes to find people reliable, who want to tour, who like that kind of music. Nowadays a lot of bands are working with session musicians that are just here for one tour or album and then they’re gone.

Clémens: So yeah, we are lucky.

Later your new bass player, Julien Negro, joined.

JB: Yeah, I know him since, 10-15 years or something like that. He has always been around in the underground music scene in our place. He’s also playing in some other bands with Ranko, our drummer. So, they you know each other pretty well which also makes things way more easier.

With this line-up you created the latest album, Wolves Among the Ashes, which was released a month ago. It’s really nice, congratulations.

Both: Thank you.

It was in the press release of the album that you first focused on the instrumental part while creating the album, which was the first time you did so, right?

JB: No, I always do this. I always try to write and record all the instrumental parts. I might have some ideas about the vocals. I think I also get some ideas about the vocals melody-wise, but all the growling and extreme parts I did on the very last moment.

It was also in the press release that the vocal recordings were the most difficult.

JB: Yes, because I knew that we had something special with the instrumental parts, I knew we have some special people with a lot of different skills and different vocal styles. So, I just felt like that it would be too bad if we were not using everyone, because everyone has something special. So, that was the idea first, to put some different vocals on everything. On Abreaction I did everything on my own, from the guitars to the vocals and I think I was a bit tired of that. I wanted something a little bit fresh. At the same time we had to focus on one thing, mixing all the ideas we had. That worked out great. We recorded all the vocals in our own studio. At the beginning we were just trying some ideas. It took some weeks to find a proper way to do things and after that it was fine. It was like I have this idea and I record it. If it’s working, it’s working. If it’s not working, maybe let’s try Clément because he has a better voice for this. For example, I’m not that good at singing clean vocals. I’m not good at it. Clément can do it, Julien can do it, Ranko can do it. Then we mixed the textures and stuff like that.

Clémens: It was very interesting to use all the skills of everyone. It’s like a real band work, in terms of the vocals.

JB: Even on the lyrics I sometimes have no idea about how to write some lyrics. I have some ideas about the theme and stuff, but the writing itself sometimes isn’t my thing. So, Julien wrote a lot of stuff. We had some discussion together and it was like these songs are about these subjects so maybe you can write something. He wrote something pretty nice. It was pretty collaborative on everything.

It worked out really well. Earlier this year you posted a photo of the fires in Australia on Facebook together with a line from Thermageddon‘s lyrics. The album is about karma and nature fighting back at us.

JB: Not only, but on this song I’m talking about it.

Having that said how do you look at the climate debate that’s going on nowadays?

JB: I mean I wrote the Thermageddon lyrics two years ago. Now look what happened since then. All the fire burning and stuff like that. We are also from a region which can sometimes be pretty extreme when it comes to the climate. It’s pretty hot and dry during the summer. We had some summers with a lot of fires.

Where exactly in France do you live?

JB: We are living in the French Riviera. When it’s raining, it’s raining a lot. It can be really extreme. It also is a really touristic region with a massive amount of people coming during the summer and you can see the difference on the climates, the texture of the air, the texture of the water when you want to swim. I’m always outside and I can feel the difference. This change also has an impact on my mood, on my life, on my body and everything. So, for some people it might not be obvious but there is an issue. I don’t think we will solve it to be honest. I think people and humanity is creating his own Armageddon.

Clément: We’re on the road to the end definitely with the global warming. It’s not like a suspicious thing or something, now it’s there. We can’t go back. It’s a problem that can’t be solved, because we are all on our own.

JB: All the people that are supposed to take care of it aren’t really taking all the responsibility to do everything. There are so many examples. It maybe sounds crazy but all these pictures of the fires and stuff inspired me when I was writing the lyrics and the music. For example, when I saw all these posts about Australia, that was my state of mind when I was writing the music. So yeah, for me it was really obvious.

You start Wolves Among the Ashes with a sample of a Jim Jones speech and you wanted to portray human madness to the extreme with that. What made you want to portray that?

JB: Sometimes there is some inspiration in the creative process that you can’t really explain. I was looking for a speech for that intro because I’ve felt that that would fit. I was looking into something when I explained this idea to the other guys, I think I explained it to Julien or Ranko. One of them told me to check out this Jim Jones guy. I didn’t really know him, what he did and stuff like that. I tried some speeches. I only put this speech I got on YouTube on top of the instrumental part and what I heard really freaked me out, because it was real. It’s a real speech. It’s a real story, it’s a real speech and you are really hearing his own people killing themselves. I think it was one of the most fucked up things I heard since years and it really freaks me out. So, if it freaks me out, I think it will freak out the listener and that’s also what we wanted to bring to the people. When they will listen the album I want the people to have this kind of emotion and stuff like that, the fear and being not nice about it. It’s not about cushioning what happened. I’m not speaking about what happened, I’m just speaking about the feeling.

Clément: And about the fact that these things happen and that some people die because they follow a fucking weird faith from a random guy who perverts all these people.

JB: It’s really fascinating.

Clément: Yeah, it’s fascinating because you need to manage with the fact that some people are really weak. I think if some people can do that in creating faith and pushing them to kill themselves then we’re in a really bad situation with our civilization. So, it’s like a pretty alarmist speech and about really frightening stuff. So, I think it fits perfectly with us.

JB: It’s like we’re all capable of the worst and the best.

Clément: Especially the worst.

JB: On that part I was more focused on the worst.

Did you immediately knew that you wanted to use that specific speech?

JB: Yeah, sometimes there are some choices that are obvious. When create something you sometimes hear something and you immediately know that that’s the right thing. When we sent the album to the label, they didn’t really like it. I am not sure if they didn’t really like it because of the speech on itself.

Clément: It was about morals.

JB: They said that we didn’t have the rights to use it, but it has common rights. We will use it and we were like it’s part of the songs and once it’s part of the songs, it’s part of the songs.

I also really like the cover of the album, which is made by Dehn Sora. What made him the best person for this job?

JB: It’s the first time we worked with him and I really appreciate his work since a long time. We used to work with someone else. I felt like it was time to change a little bit, to change some aesthetic to have something that fits better with this more post-apocalyptic atmosphere.

Clément: The same as with the album, trying different things.

JB: I contacted him and he was in. He listened to the album and he really liked it. It was really easy and simple to work with him, he’s working really fast.

Clément: He is an amazing artist.

JB: He is working on a lot of different projects.

Clément: It’s insane.

JB: He created something really great.

When I looked at the cover I also saw a little bit of light. Is that a conscious choice?

JB: Maybe, but I didn’t really focus on these aspects. I think it could be. There sometimes is stuff in art you can’t really explain. Even if you are creating something yourself it sometimes is better to keep some mystery and to let the people think for themselves about what is on the table.

Clément: It’s an artistic creation and sometimes you don’t have any word for that. You just need to express this. That’s the same for people who create covers I think. They’re drawing something and then it’s like this, just because it’s like this.

Can you say something about what’s meant by the main square thing?

JB: The square thing was an idea of Dehn Sora. When I’m on the creative process I’m always collecting pictures of everything, pictures that I took for myself from museum or pictures that I like to inspire me. I gave him some pictures I took of The Gates of Hell from Rodin, which is a gate with melting bodies in it and I was really inspired by this. He took that part but I can’t really explain the model. It’s a really personal identification of what it is about.

This is your only Dutch show of this tour. Do you already have plans to come back after tonight?

JB: Right now we are talking with different agencies about new touring plans. There’s definitely some stuff that will happen in the near future, yeah.

Thanks for your answers and enjoy your show.

Both: Thank you very much.

Is there anything you want to say to our readers?

JB: Thank you very much for giving us any support, that’s nice.

Clément: And hope to see you tonight.

I will be there for sure.

You can also read our earlier preview and live review of Veghel Black Fest, including Svart Crown, here (preview) and here (live review).

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