One cursory glance at the French black metal scene gives leeway as to how off-centre the country is when it comes to the black arts. From Deathspell Omega to Blut Aus Nord to even the shoegaze-on-sunlight vibe of Alcest, France appears to have little, if any regard for conventions. Toss Smohalla into the mix, who with their Resilience sophomore offering manage to twist BM into even more crossed-up and frazzled forms. It’s black metal for the cerebral and infinitely patient, which is why we tracked down mainman Slo for a round of questions. As you’ll read below, Slo tackles quite the variety of topics, including Smohalla’s place in the black metal scene, and of all things, pregnant pandas...
Blistering.com: Smohalla is the utter definition of “avant-garde” black metal. How self-aware are you that your music doesn’t really fit into any particular category?
Slo: I think definition and appropriation of genres in metal, subdivisions etc., really changed and evolved in the last 10 years. I remember early in the 90's, fusion of genres were something rare, thankfully with some exceptions. Nowadays a lot of bands are trying to get their own style mixing different approaches to play the more personal style they can. Not just to be single on earth, but as we humans are all different, so every artist should all develop their own vision of music. I think we have to make a difference between art and craft.
Metal is leaded by millions of bands playing craft, which can be very cool by the way, bands playing like other ones, with same riffs, same vocals, same lyrics and same production. But you can find some real art too, I mean, explorative and innovative stuff. That's the way we choose. I'm not even sure it's useful to call us avant-garde, for me, we are just a progressive extreme band. We definitely got a bizarre touch, as we are living between dreams and reality, and both are completely absurd, so...
Blistering.com: Prior to the recording of Resilience, you recorded some covers of Ulver and Emperor. Did they have any impact on the writing process for the new album?
Slo: Every step is a part of the same walk. But when you speak about music, or art, every step can be a whole walk too. These covers were some 'short steps' before the long three years old walk Resilience has been. It helped me to learn more about production, as I learned a lot with Resilience and our next split CD to come 2012 working with RH from Sael and Echoes studio, and Kristian from KKP studio.
Blistering.com: What was your mindset going into the writing process for Resilience? Were you looking to take the next step from the Smolensk Combustion EP?
Slo: Not really, ‘cause every records are symbols of their own period, they all have their own aura, their own style and their own production. And I don't want to base my starting work on the past, it would be strange. When you start to work on something, you want your own mind to be blown away by your tunes; you want to be surprising by your own brain and create something totally new, even for yourself.
Blistering.com: The album itself is very complex and at first, hard to digest. But when you delve deeper into it, it starts to make sense. What do you hope the listener will get out of this?
Slo: I would be happy to hear some reviews, how listeners have experienced it, where people spirits are travelling with the help of our music… I don't know, I'm not expecting something definite, in the contrary I think everyone can have his own visions. For me, as a composer, my goal was to escape the farthest from here. I think the universe is all around us, from here to eternity, and it's in our brain, heart and soul too. This same potential infinity, it's both all around and inside us. And what's inside you, you can shape, as far as your imagination and will can. That's why you can find so many different tracks and shapes on our songs, so many breaks and cuttings.
I don't care about writing the more homogeneous and conventional songs, that would mean follow some rules and following rules in music, when you're a composer, is like being a sheep among sheep. Okay, play punk, black metal or heroin-electro dance music, following strict codes of these genres, and you will be a black sheep. But a black sheep is still a sheep. I don't want this; I want to be a shepherd. I learned to play guitar and drums by myself. I never learned music theory, E, C, D, do, si, la, treble clef, I will never know anything about all that codes, as I'm not interesting in the boundaries they can be for creation. So, I just hope listeners will travel far away from here with our tunes.