CVLT Nation Interviews:
Menace Ruine Interview
Hey guys! First of all thanks for finding the time to do this interview! It is much appreciated.
Venus Armata is to be released through Profound Lore records, the label that also released Alight In Ashes. Is the vinyl going to be released through SIGE Records this time around as well? How has it been working with these two labels?
G – Yes, Sige will be releasing the vinyl later this Fall. Both labels are great to work with, and respectful of our music, demands and artistic choices. Really, wonderful people and nothing to complain about. It is also interesting to be working with two completely different labels for the same release. Profound Lore being in the metal realm, which is not that obvious since we are not metal, but Chris always had this open-mindedness with his label, and we always had a connection to this universe, so I guess our alliance is legitimate. And Sige have more the arty, crafty, eclectic vibe, and it is great to work with friends, as it makes up for the distance in a way.
How would you describe Venus Armata when compared to your four previous albums? In which way has your music evolved through the years?
G – It is hard for me to say. Our music has certainly evolved, naturally, and the compositions are more elaborate now, the lyrical process more and more conscious, though nothing is premeditated. It is still an instinctive work, but maybe the matter is more and more refined? But there is a limit to refining those rough sounds and it is definitely not the goal… or is it? I see this project as a magical journey, and we cannot predict where its paths will lead us, but I am receptive enough to find my way through them, by following the hints, and let the music come. Venus Armata is the natural follower of Alight in Ashes, as it directly drew from its light, and I think it produced our brightest album to date, the most aerial and meaningful one. But I don’t know, maybe the next one will explore new territories, or even similar ones, but the results will be denser and darker, and less words will be needed…
How does the creative process work for Menace Ruine? Is it a collaborative process or an individual one?
G – It is a collaborative process, though maybe not in the traditional way of dividing the tasks. MR would not have come to existence, nor will never exist without one of us. I compose and record all the music, with a few exceptions – “Torture of Fire” on this album, for which I added only the vocals, sistrum and kamutef – I write the lyrics, and bring the concepts. Steve programs the beats, mixes and is responsible for the graphic design.
When it comes to composing music, some people find it a painful process, while others seem to find it enjoyable. Which side do you fall under?
G – Totally enjoyable.
The amount of influences on your albums is unbelievable, from the black metal vibe, the more folky tones and of course to the noise and electronic music input. Do you find it difficult to balance between these different areas of extreme music?
G – No, because I just don’t think about those things while composing the music. I feel free to go wherever the sounds drive me. Hopefully people are not too lost listening to it. We remain quite isolated with our music throughout the whole writing process of an album, so there is always a chance that it would turn out to be too hermetic, but hopefully it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. Our music is made to be shared, but we just don’t aim to a specific audience. As I often say, MR’s music is not to be defined by its form.
The title of your album is really interesting. Venus Armata translates as “Venus In Armor,” a symbol that has appeared throughout history. What does the image of the goddess of love in battle armor signify for you?
G – There are more representations of Aphrodite, her Greek counterpart, armed and victorious. Venus also, in few cases, is represented armed, but less as a ‘gender victory,’ and more as the glory of Rome, and sometimes is depicted having disarmed Mars, after seducing him. But Venus does not need Mars’ weapons to conquer anything. So, Venus Armata, for the album and song, stands more as an allegory of the power of love. But love in the broad sense, and more as a spiritual one. This album explores the conjunction of opposites, and, in a process of individuation, the meeting with the anima is always transformative and leads further towards this goal. Venus, of course, plays this role in various stories of initiatory journeys, the seductive figure one must encounter but resist the charms if he wants to progress into his quest. So this is what the song is all about, and a sort of homage to the Goddess energies, and this armor is, of course, one of love.
I always viewed your music as having two sides, instrumentation and vocals: the instrumentation being the extreme side, while the vocals are the melodic side. Do you also find this duality in your music? And do you find it difficult bringing together what are essentially polar opposites?
G – I like this question. My work with Menace Ruine is really concerned with bringing the opposites together, as I found some powerful answers and inspiration in alchemical symbolism. I cannot help making a link with the alchemical work on the matter as a reflection of the subconscious and inner self, and the way I work with this project…It combines a spiritual quest and also a playful aspect that stimulates creation so much.
I find quite interesting that people are drawing such a dramatic line between my ‘melodic’ vocals and the ‘noisy’ music. I know it is because my voice is pretty clear compared to the other elements, but I don’t feel that duality myself, since I consider our music always melodic, and the distortion adds some interesting harmonics. The melodic quality of the music is always what inspires me to sing, so my voice and the synth parts are tied together right from the start.
Some of your song titles seem to include contrasting ideas. “Soothing But Cruel” I guess is one of them, since rarely is something cruel soothing at the same time. I guess that “Marriage In Death” can be considered another one, with a celebration of life taking part in death. How does this paradox tie in with your lyrical concepts in the new album?
G – ”Soothing But Cruel” is inspired by a love letter from the Sun to the Moon, and old Arabic alchemical text by Senior, and their union is to take place when the moon is new, in total darkness.
The union of opposites always occurs in the darkest or most closed places, in the underworld, funeral chambers, closed vessels, or after the deepest desolation or depression, when we feel we are at the end of our tether, then something new is born.
“Marriage in Death” is another example, borrowing first from the myth of Persephone. This is why this image of the lady on the white horse was appropriate, right from the start as I imagined them flying in the underworld together, above the subterranean rivers, rid of Hades, just being strong and drawing from this desolate place until she is incorruptible, ready to go back to the light, and to her mother Demeter, and finally be part of nature. What is really called there, through the return of Spring, is the union with the spirit of nature.We all bear a seed of death in us, and that seed is precious since it allows us to grow again into a new unified self.
Can you tell us about the recording process for Venus Armata? The sound of the album is great! Did you record it by yourselves or did you also use engineers?
G – Thanks! We’ve always recorded everything by ourselves, and the parts are recorded pretty much as they are composed, until the very end, at our rehearsal space. I guess we developed skills, and bought a couple of better microphones along the way, but all has been recorded in the same machine, and the same place since the beginning of MR. The only part we don’t achieve ourselves is the mastering. James Plotkin did a great job again for this album.
The artwork for the album is equally impressive. Which artist did you use for it and can you tell us how it ties in with the concept of Venus Armata?
G – Steve deserves all the merit for it. He is a very talented graphic designer, and is responsible for all the artwork of Menace Ruine. We always discuss together the concepts inherent to the lyrics, and I share with him some source images for inspiration. Then he starts merging and modifying photos we take and various textures and fragments from old paintings and frescos. In this cd booklet, each song has its respective illustration. The song “Venus Armata” gave its title to the whole album, but it is the image for “Marriage in Death” that made the cover. It was inspired by the central characters of a painting from the 50’s, and the original image accompanied me throughout the composition process – “Marriage in Death” was the first song to be written – and remained on my bedroom wall for a year and months. It is a powerful image, but we couldn’t use it since we did not receive the permission from the artist, so we freely inspired ourselves from there, using various sources, until we got to this victorious female character on a white horse, symbol of solar hero, the vital energy aiming more at the spiritual world.
You guys also run a record label, Union Finale. How is it also being on the more business-oriented side of the music industry? Do you have any upcoming releases?
G – We don’t see it as business that much, since we are not interested in doing huge quantities, only small releases with a digital version available, or for now at least. We see Union Finale more as a home for our projects, and a place of meeting with musicians we like, a quite humble enterprise. We left it dormant for most of the past year to concentrate on the MR album, and also had a lot going on in our personal lives, but we should go back to the label activities soon. We have a few releases on hold, new S/V\R material, a new Rei Rea album, hopefully a release by Le Fruit Vert, one of our favorite Montreal musical acts these days, and some more ideas, too soon to be revealed.
Do you have any plans for future gigs?
G – We will officially go back to playing live next Spring and have already agreed for two shows in June 2015, in Montreal and NYC. We’ll see what will come our way after that.
Thanks again for finding the time to do this interview, hopefully I will see you playing live soon.
Thanks to you!