Interview with Hreidmarr
French metal and avantgarde are two things closely related in terms of bands like Gojira, Deathspell Omega and Diapsiquir; bands doing new and innovative music that is more closely related to making art, rather than just rocking out. Parisians The CNK continue this bold style of art and music with their covers album, entitled Revisionnisme which not only covers classic rock and metal songs like Slayer’s “South Of Heaven” or Guns And Roses’ “You Could Be Mine”; they give them a complete facelift and bathe them in the band’s patented style of adventurous industrial metal that verges even back to the band’s black metal roots with a cover of Emperor’s “I Am The Black Wizards.” But a cover album of this magnitude could not be done alone, and that’s why heavy metal legend Snowy Shaw (Dimmu Borgir, Dream Evil, Therion, Notre Dame) lent his talent to the album, making a ferociously fun and ultimately different disc of covers than I’ve heard in recent memory. I spoke with the band about this momentous album, a tribute to not only metal music, but to rock and even 80’s that only The CNK could achieve.
For your third album, you’ve decided to do a full-length album of covers. It’s peculiar, but effective nonetheless. Why did you decide to this instead of an album of originals?
It’s something we kind of always wanted to do. I think we were even talking about it back in 2002, when we were working on our debut album! You know, we’ve always liked to fill our music, lyrics and artworks with a lot of winks and references to some stuff we like or find pertinent, including movies, bands, songs, paintings, current events, or whatever. It’s something that is an integral part of CNK’s approach of being a band, in this postmodern era. Considering this, making a cover album was something really obvious for us. Of course we asked ourselves the question if we should release this cover album first, or a new original one, which would have been maybe more “reasonable” but as usual we were like, “we don’t give a fuck, let’s do what we want, not what people expect!”
Explain the recording process for “Révisionnisme.” Where did you record it, how long did it take? What was the most difficult part of the recording?
It was recorded in three different studios. We started to work on guitars and arrangements in our bass player’s studio in Paris (studio Zoe H). We then entered the Drudenhaus studio to record the drums, some more guitars and bass and my vocals, while Snowy was recording his vocals at Wonderwurld Inc. in Göteborg. Then the album was mixed at Drudenhaus studio again. The whole process took three months. The most difficult part was certainly the mix, because we had so many tracks to manage, it was a fucking nightmare! Just talking about the vocals, we had something like sixteen tracks!
You’ve got an absolute metal legend in the voice of Snowy Shaw featured on this disc. I’ve heard the man’s live concert, where he easily takes on and conquers covers from Therion, Dimmu Borgir, Dream Evil, King Diamond and even Mercyful Fate. What was it like working with this legend?
Sometimes it was cool and sometimes it was complicated. He’s someone with a very strong personality, and the same can be said with us. So from time to time, we had some very “animated” discussions. But I think it was part of the process of making this album, it HAD to be like that. We’ve known each other for several years now. We first got in touch when we were both signed on Osmose Productions, back when he was with Notre Dame, and I with Anorexia Nervosa. We’ve wanted to work on a project together for years and he’s someone we really admire and respect. I don’t want to sound consensual, but it’s the truth. I’m definitely very proud of what we achieved together!
For those who aren’t familiar with your odd brand of bombastic industrial black metal, how might you describe it?
“French Military Glamcore” or “Hard-Rock for the End of Times” (laughs) I don’t really know. Some guy from MTV.com once described us like this: “alternative metal and industrial metal with extreme vocals, (Hreidmarr’s harsh, larynx-shredding vocal style is somewhere between a black metal rasp and metalcore screaming) dramatic hints of Euro-classical/opera icon Richard Wagner and a strong appreciation of Germany’s Rammstein and the Slovenian industrial band Laibach.” I think that makes sense.
What covers on this disc are your personal favorite? There’s everything from Guns N’ Roses to Emperor on here. Are these bands personal influences, or did you cover some of these songs for the pure joy of it?
In the very beginning, each of us came with a list of about ten songs that we’d like to cover, so we had something like fifty potential covers. We then proceeded by the process of elimination. We favored the album’s coherence and efficiency, rather than our crushes and favorites. Sometimes we started working on a song and it was simply not working the CNK way… By the way, I remember the demos of “Because The Night” (Springsteen), “Free Bird” (Skynyrd), “God of Thunder” (Kiss) and “We Hate Everyone” (Type O Negative), which didn’t make it to the final track list. Some of the bands we covered are influences, and some are “just” cool stuff we like. I think my favorite ones are “Where The Wild Roses Grow” and “You could be mine”.
The cover of the album features a nude male model. Sure it might put off some listeners who are expectant of gritty “black metal” cover art, but yet it also continues the militaristic sense that adorns the cover or your previous album L’Hymne A La Joie as the model is wearing an officer’s cap. What was the photoshoot process like for this cover, what do you have to say to people who are put off by your display of what some would call “unwarranted displays of homosexuality” on your latest covers (including the reissue of your debut) and what is the significance of militarism in the band as of late?
The cover photography refers to the famous picture of Yves Saint Laurent, taken by Jeanloup Sieff in 1971, and the whole artwork sort of revisits the clichés of fashion and haute-couture. As for the music, we took the risk of “rewriting history” our own way: both serious and funny. We thought it was interesting to mix the worlds of fashion and totalitarism, which are or has actually been connected in some ways.
About the reissue of Ultraviolence Über Alles, the cover is again a hijacking of the famous “Kiss of Death” between communist leaders Erich Honecker from East Germany, and Leonid Brezhnev from the Soviet Union, during the 30th Anniversary of the German Democratic Republic in June 1979. We thought that the reference was interesting, as for the oxymoron between the title and the picture.
You know, we have a kind of very cynical view on our so-called “modern world” and all of its paradoxes. We’re living in a world that created fascism, communism, Nazism, the nuclear bomb, mass murderers, ethnic cleansing, etc. and we’re so pretentious and proud of our superiority on the past that in a way, we refuse to face reality. People are convincing themselves to live in a cool and tolerant society, especially in western countries where their human rights are the only law, the new God… Although in fact, this society is probably more violent and obscurantist than back in the middle-ages… What really is modern democracy in the end, apart from well hidden fascism?
What is meant by The CNK (Cosa Nostra Klub) and what does it mean to the band? What statement are you gentlemen trying to make with your music?
There is no real “message”, we aren’t no “message band”, we aren’t no fucking Rage Against The Machine. (laughs) Basically, we just try to make people open their eyes, and think by themselves, instead of the force-fed global unilateral thinking… and you cannot do that without shaking them up a little bit. Still we try to do it without annoying them with some boring intellectual stuff. We play rock n’ roll and it has to be fun, which can of course include cruelty and borderline shite.
What are some of the band’s other influences, aside from the ones who are covered? What electronic acts would you consider to be influential?
Let’s say, disorderly: Laibach, The Eternal Afflict, GG Allin, SPK, Skinny Puppy, DAF, Nitzer Ebb, The Plasmatics, Klaus Nomi, Death In June, NON…
What activities do you participate in when not recording or making music? Are there any interesting films that you’ve seen, books that you’ve read, or perhaps even video/computer games that you’ve played?
Just finished the Slash biography and it’s really cool! Otherwise, I mainly read books from my French writer friends, like Jacques de Guillebon, Rémi Lélian, Romaric Sangars, Olivier Maulin or Sarah Vajda. About cinema, the last recent movies I liked are Melancholia, Bellflower, God Bless America and The Tree of Life. Ok, it’s not so recent. (laughs)
If there is any philosophy that you could share with us, beliefs of the band and such; what would that philosophy be?
Be a man.
Even though the Mayan Indians were terribly wrong about the world’s end, do you think that we might still be heading down that path? Is it just a matter of time before we accidentally or intentionally annihilate ourselves?
Of course it is! I doubt it will be intentional, but… By the way, I recommend the reading of the essay “American Black Box”, by Maurice G. Dantec. I think it’s a good analysis of what’s going on in the geopolitics of our modern world, and what we should expect, including the “all against all war”.
What do you gentlemen think of the current state of the music industry? Here in America, I feel that we get the brunt of it with horrible electronic pop songs and youtube stars. What is the music scene like in France?
It’s barely the same. Shitty YouTube or trash TV so-called “stars” everywhere. Internet fake bands etc. etc. I don’t remember who said this, but he was fucking right: “There are two ways to censor Mozart, one is to ban him, purely and simply, the other is to let everybody make some noise, so that nobody can hear him.” Fuck your dying culture!
The digital age has brought on the act of torrenting or downloading albums from bands with the click of a button. Some acts embrace it, as it helps them to find new fans whom they’ve never had before; but others demonize it, saying that it destroys the music entirely. What is your take on this?
I think you can’t prevent people from doing it. It’s like a sign of the times. People want everything right now, if possible for free and without moving their fat asses. So be it. Take a look at the picture attached, no surprise so many bands are so disillusioned that they simply quit:
Have you gentlemen been working on any new material? Are you planning to tour? If you could tour anywhere, where would that be?
Yeah, we already started working on some new stuff; we have something like 7 new songs almost finished! And yes, we are going to tour as much as possible this year! I would love to tour in Japan and in the US. If some promoter reads this, HELLO, C’MON BOOK US!
If there is anything else that you feel you need to speak your mind about to the people of the US and the rest of the world, please feel free to do so.
America, please send me a green card by Federal Express. I need to escape from here, a.s.a.p.
Thank you for making one of the most interesting and unique cover albums that I’ve ever heard in my life. I advise readers of this interview who’ve never heard of these gentlemen to run out and get a copy of Révisionnisme as soon as humanly possible.