A shadow rules the shadows. We’re nothing but dust and shadow.
Originally formed in 2006, on 28 October 2016 France’s Abduction released their first full length, Une Ombre Régit Les Ombres through Finisterian Dead End (website; Facebook). A long time in the making, here, vocalist François Blanc gives MR’s Jason Guest insight into the album, its creation, the themes, the artwork, music and meaning, and Church ruins…
Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on Une Ombre Régit Les Ombres (reviewed here).
François Blanc: Hello Jason, glad you liked the album. Thank you very much for your words. As we’re passionate about what we do, it’s always nice to have an opportunity to talk about our music and the concept that goes with it.
Your first full length release since the band formed in 2006 and your first release since 2010. Why so long to release material?
Well, to start with, a lot of things happened within the band. Guillaume Roquette, the first singer, was dismissed and I was hired in 2011 to replace him. And when it comes to Abduction, the songwriting itself always takes a bit of time, because Guillaume Fleury – guitar player and mastermind behind the band – has a very specific idea of the result he wants to achieve and as the songs are long & complex, getting there require quite some time.
And then, unfortunately, the vocals were recorded in separate sessions through a very long period (almost an entire year I think), and we started to work with a friend on the mixing of the album only to understand after a while that although he was very committed and willing to do his best, he couldn’t really take us where we wanted. So, we asked Déhà (Clouds, We All Die (Laughing), Maladie, etc) to start over and mix the album for the second time.
Then, we had to find a label to release the album. Fortunately, with Finisterian Dead End, it was some sort of “love at first sight” so to speak and that didn’t take too long. But anyway, we promised each other that our next albums won’t take five years to be completed. It was very frustrating for us!
Did you have an idea of how you wanted the album to sound, or did each of the tracks and the whole thing take shape as it was being developed?
I would say both in a way, because even though Guillaume has a pretty clear vision from the start, he spends a lot of time trying many different guitar layers and harmonies before choosing the combination he likes best, and does that for every single part of the album. So, although he always has a clear idea from day one, we’re always surprised to see how the compositions evolve and develop, as there can be some new elements or small changes with every step. I guess we only had a clear vision of the album when everything was recorded. Especially soundwise: only Guillaume knew how all these guitar lines would blend together in the end. So, until the end of the mixing process, it was still a bit blurry for us.
What are the themes on the album? And where did inspiration come from?
The two main themes behind Abduction’s concept are the passing of time, something that scares and fascinates us at the same time (the sad, inevitable ending of things and human lives, and the nostalgia that comes with it), and France’s History, heritage and landscapes. Guillaume and Mathieu Taverne, bassist and main lyricist, are inspired by everything they read, by their own thoughts and views of the world, and by the nature that surrounds us. Every song has a distinct theme of course – for example, ‘Naphtalia’ deals with the painter Vincent Van Gogh and the pain that comes with any creative process, and ‘Les Frissons Des Cimes’ tells about the beheading of King Louis XVI – but these two main themes are always there, in a way or another.
How did you approach composition?
Most of the time, Guillaume start writing some riffs, put them next to each other and then gets a lyrical theme in mind, either inspired by the music he wrote or by the subject itself. Then, the song develops: Morgan Velly adds his drum parts, Mathieu and Guillaume work on the bass lines, Guillaume shows me what he has in mind for the vocal lines, and then Mathieu starts to work on the lyrics. The good thing is, with each step, we can make our suggestions to Guillaume and add our own personal touch to the album.
How long were you working on the material? And what changes did it go through during that time?
Musically, some ideas were there since day one (or even before we started to work on the album: there are a few guitar parts and melodies that were written back in 2006, when Guillaume just started the band), some other came along the way. As I said before, there were some minor adjustments along the way, from the first recordings sessions till the final mix.
The artwork for the digipack is intriguing. Can you tell us about it, what it represents and how it relates to the album themes?
We put a lot of effort into that as well, as we truly believe in the importance of the visual aspect of the band, especially for a newcomer like us, coming out of nowhere and trying to get people to care and give a chance to our album and hear what we have to offer. The cover artwork is a darkened version of the famous painting “The Church at Auvers” by Vincent Van Gogh. One of the multiple meanings of the album title (A Shadow Ruling The Shadows) is that the Church, typically the highest building in a French village, is the shadow, guiding and ruling all the other houses and living souls around, which are the other shadows. It’s a work of art that we love, and it goes well with our music and lyrics (especially the epic opener ‘Naphtalia’).
The album was produced by Déhà at HH Studios in Sofia, Bulgaria. Why choose to work with Déhà? And what did Déhà bring to the recording and to the album?
A mutual friend heard the first mix of our album and as he knew we weren’t so pleased with it, he suggested that we worked with Déhà and put us in touch with him. We already knew and enjoyed some of his work, so we decided to give it a shot. Déhà is a really cool guy and a great artist, really professional and devoted, and also a fast worker. He’s a real black metal enthusiast and he knows exactly what he’s doing. Needless to say, he was a great partner in this adventure, and he offered many convincing suggestions and had a big impact on the overall production and mixing of the album. The drum sound changed completely for example, and he really did a lot of work on the clean vocals for example, helping with the harmonies and such. The album would really sound different if he wouldn’t have been involved.
How does the band approach composition? Is there a main writer, do you jam ideas out…?
Guillaume is doing most of the stuff, but with each step, every band member bring his ideas. Since I joined the band, we never had a proper chance to jam, but that is something we consider trying at some point in the future.
Formed in 2006, how has the band developed since its formation?
I guess we really matured. It may sound as a cliché, but with time, we became better musicians and Guillaume now has a better approach on composition. I’m sure the next two albums will be even better than this one!
What’s the significance of the Plague Doctors image?
Being anonymous is not the point here: as you can see, we don’t try to hide our real names and we stand proudly to present and defend our music and lyrics. Yet, we think that plague doctors are a good metaphor to talk about our world, full of madness and diseases. If Art can be a therapy, consider our album as some kind of weird, passionate prescription! These costumes were designed to help doctors during the plague episode that occurred during the XVIth century, they thought disease was flying in the air, that’s why doctors used those masks, to prevent themselves from being sick. They also put some spices and herbs on the top of the beak. Needless to say most of them suffered and died, as they also were unable to cure this illness. By using this image, we pay a tribute to our country’s History and in the same time we symbolise the idea of the tragic and inescapable condition of each mortal soul…
What does the act of making music mean to Abduction?
It’s something we truly can not help. Abduction really is Guillaume’s outlet, his way to express his creativity, to turn his strongest emotions into pieces of art that will survive him. It’s really a summoning of dark and intense feelings. I almost fainted and cried while recording some specific lines of the album… It was a really strong experience. Music is a way to escape from reality and the best “medium” of expression, according to us.
Any plans for shows in support of the album? And if so, will we be seeing you in the UK anytime soon?
No current plans at the moment, as some band members are busy with their families at the moment. Plus, we have to plan rehearsals and see what the material conditions would be like. Still, we definitely intend to play live at some point, and I would be more than happy to travel to your country if an opportunity presents itself. Although, I have to say that Abduction will never be a heavy-touring band, spending all its time on the road. We will do some selected shows from time to time, if possible in special locations and conditions. It has to remain exceptional, otherwise it just becomes a routine and that’s not the way we approach our music and art… Anyway. Time will tell!
What would be the ideal setting for an Abduction performance?
Church ruins in an isolated place in the countryside? Or the courtyard of an old castle? That would be absolutely ideal!
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Thanks again for your interest; it means a lot to us. Though, one always has to remember: “A shadow rules the shadows. We’re nothing but dust and shadow.”