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Today we are with Vaehron, the creator of Pensées Nocturnes, welcome. How are you?
Vaehron: Pretty well, thank you.
Let's begin with a short presentation of your creature for the ones who don't know it?
Pensées Nocturnes is a one man band which provides me the opportunity to express myself without other constraints than my imagination. It's really difficult to work in symbiosis within a band and concessions aren't easily made when related to art. This project lies on a Black Metal basis and approaches many other influences to fit to what I have in mind. No matter what is usually done. No matter what people want. Pensées Nocturnes is the image of how I see music, what I really want to listen to. I've composed the first song ("Flore") in August 2008 and Vacuum, the first album was released in April 2009. In this sunny day we are talking about Grotesque, the second album, released in March 2010. I don’t think talking about myself is really important to understand the project.
Why did you choose Pensées Nocturnes as monicker?
Night is the time when we're getting blind again, when we relive this period of the evolution when human beings on their four members couldn't use sight to feel the danger coming. It's a time of insecurity and thus relativity. Just try one night to lie on grass in a place you don't know and listen to "Grotesque" from the beginning to the end with no image neither sound from outside. Then you will get what it means.
Tell me about the "Grotesque" birth-given experience. What about "vacuum" main ispiration sources post-process?
Life doesn't have a deep meaning, a precise objective, an absolute truth. The fact that human lives rest on their share of illusions and are led by a never-ending hope is undeniable. Nothing we do has an existential foundation aside from spending time. As if life comes down to everything that allows us to forget life… But despite this emptiness we have to "live anyway" and this kind of nihilism makes it possible to see life from a totally different point of view and to try to create something from this absurdity, something that you have chosen, something that don't have to be conventional or "normal". It's a losing battle so we have to make fun of life and laugh at our condition. "Grotesque" is a little bit of all this things. I don't really want to talk about Vacuum anymore, "Grotesque" following the same concepts but with more time to stand back and assess these thoughts.
What are the differences in mood that feature this new work compared to the previous one?
"Vacuum" was my first experience in terms of composition, recording and mix and today I feel I better master these processes. "Grotesque" is more mature and looks more like what I'm looking for. I think it is more complex in terms of composition but of concept too. On the one hand "Grotesque" goes deeper on the "mixing everything" thing and thus is more absurd and ludicrous than "Vacuum" which is more common if I may say. But on the other hand there are more brutal parts and thus more extreme metal pieces on "Grotesque", "Vacuum" being more into the "Depressive Black Metal" style. So to sum up I would say Grotesque is at the same time less serious and rougher, less righteous and more unhealthy than "Vacuum". I think the main improvements between these albums concern the production, the voice and the composition, far more original and complex.
The album has the propensity to create a natural connection with with non-musical representations like Burlesque and Grand Guignol ones, Burtonian cinema and Romantic literature that i mentioned in the review. How much did the relation with art affect the birth of the songs and what is your musical background?
What I've always wanted to do with PN is using Music as a tool to express a larger matter. Not trying to create the most beautiful or powerful Music. Not trying to do the best Black Metal ever because I know more than others what it is. Most of the time in Extreme Metal people are led by the music rather than being the master of it. Let's take the example of Anti-Christianity: honestly with all the changes in terms of culture and religion in Europe who really thinks it's still a major problem to deal with? Musicians aren't artists anymore, they are just puppets being convinced they have a path to follow or whatever. Because art cannot be reduced to being cast in the same mould as most Black Metal bands seem to think. "Transilvanian Hunger" is one of a kind, "The Fountain" by Duchamp too, but you only do it once however it's just pure plagiarism and totally useless. I don't revel in reading a book I have already read as well as composing something I already know how to compose and playing something I already know how to play. I have something to express, to deal with and then I compose the music which fits for it. It's the way it should work, not saying "ok I want to do Black Metal, now what should I talk about? Others deal with this, ok it should be the good thing to talk about". If we call art materializing a though, giving a material shape to an idea, then PN can be called art. As for my musical background there is not that much to say except a few years of piano quickly forgotten…
How do your compositions come to life?
I usually start from a concept, a thought, and I develop the music with the idea of what I would call a scenario. Sometimes this logical sequence is led by a text, sometimes it inspires one. There is no strict rule. I just let my imagination leading me when inspiration is here. I think it's important to be led by emotions rather than brain during composition (or more exactly both of them but separately) that's why I don't censor myself even if I've a text to follow. In a way music express more precisely than words what you can feel and I don't want to miss this particularity. So no rule, just try and see. Therefore composition, recording and mixing are led at the same time which is a necessary approach when talking about experimentation.
How did you realize the orchestrations on "Grotesque"? Did you use a keyboard or a computer, or only real instruments?
Well for an obvious matter of financial means, some "instruments" are actually synthesized, especially orchestration and choir parts, the idea being not to be limited by material matter. I just want follow every lead and the fact I don't make any concert with PN makes it possible to create something which doesn't have to be credible. I don't think about concert when I compose, how will I put this on a scene because it would be too restrictive. I see Music as a tool to encode and express something, not a way to show everybody how good I am.
Lyrics are rather surreal and fitting your music, from what are you inspired?
I said I use music as a tool and lyrics are thus a kind of key to understand them. You can find a lot of references like Camus, Nietzsche, Werber, Hugo, Devos, Brassens… But it is also a way for me to play with the French language and create some kind of puzzles.
The artwork reflects the album's content. The colours and the characters are surreal and grotesque. Is this how you read the society in which we live or is it an alternative world?
The artwork is the work of Stephen Rothwell, a British artist who evolves in a surrealistic and unhealthy atmosphere. I thought that this kind of strange and absurd combination fits totally to Pensées Nocturnes's universe, trying to give another point of view of the everyday life ending eventually in something thought-provoking. It has always been the main goal of PN to try to show another point of view on our life, our world, our condition. A nominalist vision in fact. Imaginary, absurdity, originality is what PN is all about and I don't want to restrict listeners' thoughts with an image which would correspond to something already seen. It's the same problem with the lyrics, trying to make people think but without convincing them. I try to explain, not to preach good and evil. The lay out has been realized by 3-Crosses.
Is there a live dimension for Pensées Nocturnes? If yes, is it supported by a visual aspect in addiction to the musical one?
I'm often proposed to play live but I don't think a concert would be something suitable for this music. As I said, actually I don't want to reduce PN to a live band because it would be necessary to be credible which would decrease a lot the number of possibilities. I don't want to compose with the idea of being limited to material issues like how will I play this live? So for the time being the priority is the band's discography. What's more I'm not convinced being able to share as easily as I'm able to do with an album and I have already other bands for that. That’s why I don't want to lose time trying to set up a line-up only for promotional interest or to do like every other band.
I had the pleasure of reviewing Valholl's work, band in which you are the guitarist. Which is the real soul of Vaehron? The pagan one or the one of an intellectual and refined artist?
"Intellectual and refined artist". Hum… Is it necessary contradictory? Actually the concept behind Valhôll is not that much paganism in terms of belief; rather a nostalgia of nature compared to the link we have with it today and I don't think it is in opposition with PN. However we have here two totally different approaches of music, Valhôll being more a way to play live and with friends. PN is the project I needed to feel free. I can assure you that running a project alone is quicker than having to deal with a lot of individualities and points of view: it's more spontaneous and coherent. You don't have to convince anybody, to agree on something, to rehearse, to deal with the fifth wheel… Sure sometimes you may feel a little impatient because it’s a lot of work but it's really pleasant to feel you master everything. The other reason for running a solo project is that it's impossible to innovate when reducing the instruments used to two guitars and a bass. I think that together with only using (often unconsciously) the minor harmonic scale, this is the origin of the fact everybody is doing the same thing again and again. How do you want to do something new if you begin by restricting yourself on the choice of the instruments?
Your music blends symphonies, orchestrations and black metal parts. Do you feel part of the french black metal scene? Do you think that you contributed to it?
I don't really see it that way since I put music before side issues (country, musicians, artwork…) and generally speaking I prefer to judge bands on a case by case basis and try to avoid cataloging as far as possible. I think with the development of the Internet this notion of nationality has no signification anymore (in music) so I'm not particularly proud of being French even if indeed it seems we have a strong Black Metal scene. I don't really try to fit to a style and what I'm used to listening to follow the same rules; I'm not led by any kind of chauvinism, only the way I feel the music. As for my relation with the French BM scene, I'm involved in Les Acteurs de L'Ombre which apart from being a label organizes concerts regularly.
How was the association with Gerald's Les Acteurs De l'Ombre Productions born?
Les Acteurs De L'Ombre is a non-making-money organisation which was created by Gerald to organise concerts in France, mainly in Paris, and I am used to giving them a hand from time to time. Later it evolved to be also a webzine and last year Gerald quitted the president function to create also the label, LADLO productions. I guess you can understand that being a part of it makes it quite natural for me to work with them. On the one hand it is still a small structure so I can't have the same expectation as I would have in a bigger label but on the other hand this situation provides me the freedom I need. I am not under a contract which tells me what I have to do, the objective of Ladlo productions being here to support the scene and not to make money.
What is your relationship with those who follow your music? Are there any media with which you answer to their questions?
PN is not a way for me to be put in the foreground so I'm not really looking for exchange even if I always answer properly to the messages I receive. I'm always glad to exchange thoughts and ideas in private however but it is something I reserve for messages, the few experiences I got telling me the Internet is not a way to discuss properly with interesting persons. Interview can be also an interesting media, particularly when the journalist takes the time to read other interviews from you to get going again on what you have said before.
When you don't dress the part of artist, how is Vaehron's life?
I don't think talking about me would be very interesting. PN is not a music based on the image of its composer as could be Shining or Marilyn Manson, for which singers have the predominant roles. In PN the main role goes to the music. It's like when you buy a science fiction book with the author on the cover: honestly what do we care about the writer's face?
Thanks for the time you spent with us, the last message or a simple greeting for our readers is up to you.
Thank you and all the best for the future.