Regarde les Hommes Tomber put out a very impressive second album this year with Exile by transforming from a standard post black metal to a more raging and slower beast. I took the opportunity to ask a few questions to Jean Jerôme, the main song writer of the band, about their evolution, their artworks and their overall aesthetic.
For the first album you were the only song writer according to the interview you gave at the time. Was it the same for Exile, and if not, what made writing this album this album different?
JJS: It’s true that I wrote the album by myself, even before the band existed. When my comrades integrated the band, we tweaked some songs before going in the studio, but essentially they remained true to what I had written. Then, we started to tour quite a bit and to build a reputation. When we started to write Exile, the context was different; we had become a band. Regarde les Hommes Tomber was not a one man project anymore but a collective. Therefore, we wrote the album together, as a group. I brought the foundation then we built around them so that our different projects give more depths and diversity to Exile.
Did changing singer brought a different approach in writing or in the way you worked as a band?
JJS: You have to consider that our first singer, Ulrich (Otargos), never intervened in the song writing process and never wrote any lyrics. We had settled on a theme even before he arrived. He was only the voice. Therefore, his departure didn’t affect the writing of Exile. Thomas, our new singer is somewhat doing the same ahah! However, he is deeply involved in the life of the band. Today, it feels like he has always been a part of the band and he gave his whole with class to this album.
Your first album cover was an illustration by Gustave Doré but for Exile you choosed to work with the illustrator duo Fortifem. How did your collaboration worked to create this artwork?
JJS: In truth Fortifem was already the ones who had created the cover of our first album. We just decided to continue working with them for Exile. We were really satisfied with their worked and it seemed logical to continue our collaboration. Furthermore, we really wanted to keep an image linked to etchings and biblical pictures. Therefore, the album cover for Exile is in the continuity with the one for the first album. On the first one, you can see the tower of Babel, the symbol of mankind trying to become the equal of God. You can also a raging mob, symbol of the discord between men and of their power struggles. On Exile, the same tower of Babel is now burning, surrounded by a city that can assimilated as Sodom and Gomorrah, also burning. Crowds of scarred people are fleeing to begin a life of wandering for humanity. This was a way for us to signal this album was the direct continuation of the first album. Mankind is being punished and chased from the kingdom of God, left to fend for themselves. They still are the toy of the divine powers who enjoy manipulating them. Here, we choose to go more towards biblical and apocalyptic paintings of John Martin, an English painter from the XIXth century who illustrated the Bible. This time again it’s Fortifem who took care of assembling the different elements and to redraw the complete picture. We are really happy with the result; the cover is magnificent and filled with many details that are left to be discovered.
Your new album took a more black metal direction, or at least a darker one compared to the first album. Was it a conscious decision from you?
JJS: The first album already a certain black metal feel so we voluntarily continued to explore this style. You can also see that on Exile the songs are sometime faster, more violent and darker. Blast are more frequent and involved. It was also the result of a cycle of composition where every member took part in writing the songs, particularly our drummer and our second guitarist who are big fans of death metal and black metal.
The production on the first album underlined the overall aspect of the music but not enough the individual contribution of each instruments. With this new album I think you have found a good equilibrium so that each instrument has found its place without losing power. How did you approach the recording of this album compared to the previous one?
JJS: Absolutely, for Exile we took a different approach. We went to record at the Studio Sainte Mathe, with Francis Caste. We really appreciate the work he did for bands such as Kickback or Comity. It’s also a great professional recognized for his work and that’s also what motivated our choice. His advice were really essential for us and influenced the end result for Exile. We wanted to have a really solid rhythmic bloc so we made the bass and the drums really loud and dense. For these instruments, we wanted a raw with very little effects. Conversely, we wanted something very ethereal and misty for the guitars so that you could barely hear the guitar picks to make it sound closer to a layer of synth. It’s really that contrast between this massive rhythm and the ethereal guitars that makes the strength of our music. The objective was to create an atmosphere that serves our theme while keeping the energy you found in black metal and postcore. My ultimate goal would be to meld perfectly black metal and post-rock, a musical style that I’m a big fan of. Maybe on the third album?
What artists, outside of music, do you feel close to from an aesthetic point of view?
JJS: Personally I’m an avid fan of Japanese culture, particularly regarding cinema. I appreciate most particularly the universes created by film-makers such as Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro), Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children) or Makoto Shinkai (5 centimeters per second, The garden of words). It has nothing to do with the aesthetic of Regarde les Hommes Tomber but I have been charmed by this dream like universe. In a completely different register, I appreciate particularly the filmography of director like Takeshi Kitano (Sonatine, Violent Cop) or Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo, Bullet Ballet). Generally, I have been touched by artists who have been able to create really strong atmosphere in their work. To name just a few examples, I would choose Francis Ford Coppola with Apocalypse now, Stanley Kubrick with 2001, A Space Odyssey, Kentaro Miura who created the universe of Berserk, the people from Blizzard who created the Diablo trilogy or the Naughty Dog studio who created The Last of us, Asimov with the Foundation cycle, Hermann Hess with this writing inspired by oriental philosophy, etc… the list could go on. What links our musics and these authors is the creation of an universe and putting into place a very remarkable atmosphere.
Note: The examples of movies for all Japanese film makers were provided by the author of the article.