Illegal downloading can be useful for an extreme metal band…
With their first full length released in September 2015 a mere nine years after the band’s formation, France’s Maïeutiste delivered an astonishing piece of work. Here, MR’s Jason Guest gets them scratching their heads on a number of topics including the ban’s history, the album and its gestation, what music and its creation means, Socrate’s maïeutics, and why downloading music is good for bands…
Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on your very impressive debut album (reviewed here).
Hi Jason and thanks for your interesting and detailed review of our album, as well as this interview.
From what information I can find, the band has been together since 2006, yes? Can you give us some background on Maïeutiste, how the band formed and what drew you together to make music under this name?
Maïeutiste was founded in 2006 in the Rhône Alpes region, by Keithan and Eheuje, who wanted to create music based around black metal. The idea was to offer an eclectic music, while still retaining the fury and frenzy of extreme metal acts such as Bethlehem, Emperor, Darkthrone or Ulver. It took us a long time to get to the point where we were satisfied in regards to our expectations. The band works in a very collaborative way, in the writing and recording processes, etc. We also wanted to evoke philosophical questions that we could put into music, searching for a poetic format.
The album displays a wide spectrum of musical styles. What are the musical backgrounds of the band?
We are, above all else, music enthusiasts in general and we are more interested in the singularities of artists than the style that they belong to. Extreme metal was a large source of curiosity and inspiration, which is why black metal is still at the core of our songs. That being said, we don’t limit ourselves in terms of references and influences, so long as things stay coherent and work together.
Who are the bands main influences? And how have they impacted on the band’s sound?
When we started the band we were big fans of Emperor, Bathory and Nehëmah. We wanted to do something like that but also with other influences, like Bethlehem, Mütiilation, Tool or Ulver… and I think most importantly Mournful Congregation and Deathspell Omega, bands that have changed the way we see music. Pink Floyd, John Zorn, Thierry Escaich, Mike Oldfield, Bethoven, D vořák, Vivaldi are all names that have influenced us in various ways, in terms of composition, recording techniques and in appropriating a musical genre to make something of our own.
This is your first full length release. What did you want to achieve with it?
For this album we decided to do everything ourselves: we wanted to understand and control everything that we did. We’re all pretty much selftaught, so we put all the knowledge and experience we had in common and experimented a lot. The album is a sort of initiation for the listener but it also was as a process for us. We wanted to accomplish something that was creatively “bigger than us” and we rejected and form of simplicity or simplification. If the idea of a track meant more difficult recording conditions, such as including a double bass, doing many sessions… we didn’t compromise anything, I think that’s what makes the album quite singular.
According to the press release, the album has been five years in the making. How has it developed and what changes has it gone through during that time?
We recorded everywhere we could/wanted: garages, living rooms, outdoor settings… we didn’t do anything in an actual recording studio. We had this idea of not restricting ourselves in order not to change the nature of our music. There were many constraints due to gear, time, money… it wasn’t easy but we’re glad we did it.
Having been together since 2006, why so long to release an album?
Starting a band with a project this intense was a high risk and required considerable effort from everyone in the band. Experimenting is also a source of risks: sometimes things work, and sometimes they don’t at all, meaning long writing and recording sessions that were unfruitful. It was a long journey, because we wanted to create something authentic: we enjoy albums that require the listener to reflect upon them, that take time to be interpreted and appropriated by the listener, who builds his own personal understanding of the music.
Is there a theme, a philosophy or an ideology that underpins the album? Can you tell us a little about it and where you took inspiration came from?
Our reference to Socrate’s maïeutics is poetic. This art of “giving birth to spirits” resonates as an idea that certain ideas lie inherently within us all, and that they can be unveiled and understood by embarking on a journey, looking inside of ourselves. Our album tries to put this into music, to evoke maïeutics for the listener through a dense album with multiple genre crossovers and an open interpretation for the listener.
The album is in three parts – Eveil, Chute, and Élévation. What does each part represent?
Each part works as a chapter describing a stage of the initiation to maïeutics, of the journey of someone guided by this philosophical idea, who must confront and question his own existence, and who then sees the world through new eyes, something akin to a spiritual elevation, where questioning is endless and knowledge is an unlimited source of inspiration.
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?
That’s an excellent question. Most of our compositions were created and thought out quite thoroughly “on paper”, rather than stemming from free experimentation during rehearsals or jamming. Actual rearrangements during the recording phase only occurred if an idea didn’t work at all once recorded, or if we saw minor adjustments that we could make. The writing process for Maïeutiste isn’t really based on working hands on with guitar riffs, it mostly starts with Keithan taking a long time to digest and mature ideas that he has in mind.
The album is very diverse, covering not just a wide range of musical styles but emotions too. What does music and the act of creating and performing music mean to Maïeutiste?
We’re a band that tends to think a lot about what we do, and what we like. It can sound like our creative process is very intellectual, but it’s actually quite the opposite. We think that music is primarily a language of emotions, and we try to put words on it when we feel that it’s necessary. Sometimes we try to explain the inner workings of what we do, but other times we like to maintain a sort of mystery, as we often don’t have the words ourselves to explain it. We are just a group of people who are passionate about music, about playing music, as it transcends us and allows expressing things that sometimes cannot be through words or sentences. You could say that creating and playing Maïeutiste’s music is a way for us to strike a balance between a thought process and raw emotions.
The artwork and packaging is stunning! The images on the front and back (charcoal?) and the images and text inside are very intriguing. Can you tell us about them, what they represent and how it relates to the music?
The lyrics written by Keithan are intertwined in the compositional process of the music, mixing abstract poetry and automatic writing. The words invite to a sort of journey, and evoke a very graphic fictional universe. The artwork follows the same reasoning as our compositions: it’s an automatic drawing, using charcoal, where the process itself brought out this portrait of a ghostly apparition of some sort of phantom.
The artist is Laurence LeonardSytnik. Why choose to work with her? And how much direction was given in its design?
Laurence Leonard Sytnik is a plastic artist close to Keithan, who asked her to work on the album’s visuals. The first motivation comes from her talent to offer pictorial work that reflects on the modern world, even though she rarely exposes her work. The second reason was the will to distance ourselves from common visuals in the black metal scene, to offer something completely different. What is surprising is that the idea of creating the artwork was only in its early stages when Laurence created these charcoal drawings showing various “apparitions”. Keithan immediately knew that the artwork fitted perfectly. No logo, no title, just this enigmatic portrait.
All of the band members either are or have been in other bands. What does Maïeutiste allow that those other bands don’t?
Indeed, we work in several other projects such as Caïnan Dawn, Barús, Deinmas, Jambalaya Window, etc. Each band possesses its own work atmosphere and that transpires in the music. Maïeutiste is different in that it aims for a something transcending, a form of erudition.
How did you come to work with Les Acteurs De L’Ombre Productions for the release of the album? And do you plan to stay with them for future releases?
We contacted this label because we are very impressed of their capacity to promote new projects, and they understand that releasing a physical object such as a CD has to be an extension of our artistic approach. They are a close-knit team, who put a lot of passion into their work. We would be happy to continue working with them in coming years if it is possible for us to do so, time will tell!
Bands are finding it increasingly difficult to survive, particularly in an ages where sales are down because of illegal downloading. How does a new band such as Maïeutiste survive in such an era?
We don’t really see ourselves as victims of illegal downloading; We actually think that it can sometimes help up. It can seem surprising to say, but downloads have mostly impacted major labels and artists already settled in a certain model of selling their music, which is the same model since the sixties. Illegal downloading can even be useful for an extreme metal band, and it’s something that you have to work with, as nearly every release can be found illegally within a few days of the release.
Sales for labels can surely be impacted, but we’re lucky enough to be in a scene where listeners are attached to the idea of supporting a project, buying an object. Internet is an incredible tool for gaining access to new cultural content, so we feel it’s appropriate to question the old model of musical distribution. Listeners can buy our CD, Tape or Boxset to experience the object itself, or they can name their price for the digital download (including downloading the album completely for free) and support us either financially or simply by spreading the word about a band they support.
Any upcoming shows? And will we be seeing you in the UK any time soon?
We’re setting up and preparing for future shows at the moment so there’s not much we can say at this point, but we would love to come to the UK at some point!
What would be the ideal setting for a performance by Maïeutiste?
We try to see our concerts as the performance of one collective entity. Due to the three guitars we need a good sound engineer to bring everything out clearly, and we are considering using video projection for shows in the future, visual content could add another dimension to our music.
What does the future hold for Maïeutiste? Is there more material in the works?
We’re already working on the second album, of which some song writing started as early as 2008. It fits in the continuity of our first release, but it will most likely be more condensed, powerful and cohesive as a whole. We’re planning to record in the coming year.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Thanks for these questions that had us thinking pretty hard! We hope that those who listen to our work will enjoy it and are always looking forward to hearing new feedback and new interpretations that they may find!