» Manuel Gagneux - Zeal & Ardor
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Interview conducted September 29 2017
Interview published November 7 2017

"I'm sure it has been done before, but I was just stupid enough to release it."

Metal Covenant got on the phone with Zeal & Ardor's Manuel Gagneux to talk about the creation Devil Is Fine. A record that mixes old slave influenced rhythms with black metal parts is definitely something out of the ordinary and normally not most people's first choice and it's just one of those records that you've got to hear to even slightly understand what's on it.

Tobbe: Devil Is Fine certainly merges different types of music and tell me how you're able to put together those styles in order to become one piece of music?

Manuel: Trial and error, man. There were so many songs that I wrote that sounded like absolute horseshit and eventually it got better. So patience, I guess, is the way.

Tobbe: Then what's most important to you when it comes to mixing really different styles of music together?

Manuel: I think just that it sounds good, because you can be, you know, philosophical about it or have a theme or whatever, but in the end music is only good when it sounds good. It's pretty simple, in a weird way.

Tobbe: You mentioned trial and error and I guess you put a lot of the stuff in the trash and was there a time where you thought about quitting this idea and do something different?

Manuel: Well, yeah. A lot of times. There was so many shitty songs, but eventually I just came back to it because there was always, like, a good element in every try. So that's why I kept on going.

Tobbe: And the album's lyrical content. Tell me a little bit about it.

Manuel: Well, it's kind of like an alternate fiction, basically where, you know, slaves didn't accept Christianity, but actually turned to Satanism as a rebellion. And a lot of it I took from an old grimoire, like a magic spell book, and from other books like The Key Of Solomon. Just stolen, basically. [Laughs]

Tobbe: If there is a story, then it's kind of a short story, because the album is only 25 minutes long, even though there are 9 tracks on it. So why did the album turn out so short, really?

Manuel: You know, I didn't really think about it as a release. I just kind of made that music for myself and I uploaded it to Bandcamp. And then this huge, you know, echo came and then I'm left thinking "Fuck! I kind of fucked up. It's super short.". Well, the next album will certainly be longer. Let's put it that way.

Tobbe: Do you think that the lyrics always are more important to the artist himself than what they in fact are to the listener in the end?

Manuel: I don't know. I don't really listen to lyrics that much. But I know that certain people do, so I put a lot of effort into them, but if someone says they don't care about the words I'm absolutely fine with that.

Tobbe: The black metal music parts of the record aren't so loud in the final mixing and how come it didn't become a more prominent element in the end, if you know what I mean?

Manuel: Well, it's actually kind of simple. I recorded it with my cell phone and I suck at mixing. [Laughs] Yeah, it's just me not being able to mix properly.

Tobbe: How were you able to get that kind of old, desperate vocal style, like, so authentic and precise over the record?

Manuel: I have bad equipment and it's just one of the rare occasions where that's actually a good thing. I ran it also through, like, a gramophone simulator and that's just pretty much it. That's the magic.

Tobbe: This type of music is really unique and not many artists come out with something unique today, but would you personally say that you have created something now that has never been done before?

Manuel: No, no. I'm sure it has been done before, but I was just stupid enough to release it. [Laughs] Because there's so many artists out there that, you know, have other projects, like passion projects, and they never really release it, because they think, you know, that's not what the people want. And that's a huge shame. I think there'd be so much more interesting and awesome music out there if people were willing to share it, yeah.

Tobbe: Does someone need a specific type of musical ear to be able to embrace your music?

Manuel: Um, I don't know. You know, because when I look at our audiences it's very mixed. You know, old people, young people, metalheads, like hipsters and true black metal people. I don't think there's a formula and the people like it or they don't and then they don't listen to it.

Tobbe: Is doing some kind of crossover music necessary today if you don't want to repeat what people have made before?

Manuel: Maybe. I don't think that something new can be created, per se. So the only way to innovate it is to combine, or to change, so. Well, maybe I'm totally wrong and maybe we'll be listening to space jazz tomorrow or something. But until then…

Tobbe: If someone told you that the music on Devil Is Fine is just so weird, would you take that as a compliment or would you say that that someone just doesn't get it?

Manuel: I'd take that as a total compliment; I like weird stuff, yeah. I'm always drawn to weird things, so if someone wants to call what I do weird it's basically calling it something strange or something they haven't heard before and to me that's pretty much what I'm trying to do.

Tobbe: Out of sheer curiosity, if you make a second album, how could you ever possibly take this specific type of music further?

Manuel: That's a question I'm trying to figure out myself. I don't know; all I can do is try. I'll probably, you know, piss some people off and disappoint other people, but yes, all I can do is try and we'll see.

Tobbe: But do you think that the next album will be kind of similar to this one and you will try to keep those two specific styles for the next album too?

Manuel: I think there's still a lot to be discovered with those two elements and they'll certainly gonna be incorporated in the next album. But as soon as I figure out that I'm just cashing it in, then I have to stop, 'cause no one wants boring music.

Tobbe: But in the long run, do you have to cross other barriers too to keep your creativity flowing?

Manuel: Maybe in the long run, yeah. And I mean, it's something I enjoy doing, so I wouldn't be afraid and I'd enjoy it, I think.

Tobbe: So what other elements are you willing to bring in to your music?

Manuel: I don't know yet, man. I have to experiment a lot. So we'll see how that goes. Maybe it's gonna be techno, or trance, or something else that's awful; I don't know [Laughs] Yeah, if I knew that I would be doing that already, I think.

Tobbe: And what about some kind of touring activity? What's in the pipeline right now?

Manuel: We're looking at next year because I have to do, like, a civil service for the rest of the year. So I'll only be able to gig on the weekends. But next year will be pretty crazy and I think we'll be everywhere on this weird earth.

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