All questions by Roberto Alessandro Filippozzi (ROCK HARD Italy / DARKROOM magazine) -
1) It took about 4 years to give a follow-up to "European Landscapes": we will talk about what you have done in the meantime in the next questions, but the question here is why it took such a long time to release another album?
Our goal was to release a good album. So we took our time. It's easy to write songs if you master the basic rules of music. But if your wish is to compose original and personal music, songs that may be still enthralling after the third listening, it takes more time. I take my time to create atmospheres, to mix, to play with little details We didn't hesitate to abandon songs that didn't sound interesting, even after many days of work.
2) As far as I know, after "European Landscapes" you have taken part to many compilations, putting out (probably) many unreleased tracks. Why Hide & Seek is so much interested in compilations?
We didn't especially looked for compilations. But we are always very pleased when we are invited to take part into them. As you said, we took time between the release of our albums, so it was a good way to keep contact with the public. We thank all the people that benevolently move the independent scene, by editing compilations, also by writing fanzines and present radio programmes. They are the soul of the French independent scene.
3) As I said you probably have put out many unreleased and/or exclusive songs on several compilations: don't you think it would be appropriate to regroup all these songs on a CD, like a 'rarities collection' or something like that?
It's a good idea, thanks ! Maybe in the future Nowadays you may download unreleased tracks for free on our website. Some are extracted from early compilations.
4) In these last 4 years you also have been involved in a couple of very interesting side-projects like A Sparrow-Grass Hunt and Thy Violent Vanities: how do you judge the work done with these side-projects?
A Sparrow-Grass Hunt is the band we formed with Julien Ash (Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites 's leader). We released one album, called "Le Journal du Dormeur" (translate "the sleeper's diary"). It's a collection of ambient songs illustrating the phases of a night of sleep. Lyrics are the retranscription of my memories of real dreams. So it's quite a dreamlike concept-album ! It is very interesting to work with Julien Ash, because he has a different approach of composition. He is more instinctive than us. So it's very enriching. Since a few years, we also participate as guests to Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites 's albums. It's Julien's main project. We are proud to take part in its monumental work : more than 20 albums released since 17 years !
Thy Violent Vanities is not really our side-project. It's the work of two members of O Quam Tristis (previously Opera Multi Steel). They asked us to record backing vocals. It was another exciting experience, as the songs were already composed and we had to find the right place to put some extra melodies. It's a excellent album and enjoyed contributing to it.
5) Still talking about both A Sparrow-Grass Hunt and Thy Violent Vanities, what are these side-projects doing at the moment? Is there any plan for any of these bands? If so, please tell us everything, thanks.
We are now working on a second A Sparrow-Grass Hunt's album. We have several ideas of funny and fascinating concepts to experiment.
Hugues and Emeric from O Quam Tristis are not actually working on another Thy Violent Vanities album, because they are very busy with other projects such as the next O Quam Tristis CD and prepare live shows. So thay can't do everything in the same time ! I hope we may play live some songs of the first Thy Violent Vanities album one day, maybe as a bonus performance introducing a O Quam Tristis or a Hide&Seek's show.
6) Now let's get into your new album. Musically speaking, I think you have tried many new solutions successfully, in fact the entire album brings more pathos and emotions respect to the past: do you agree? And what have you actually changed in your way of composing for this new album?
Emotions in Where Turtles Sleep are indeed the central point of the composition. Harmonies and sounds create dynamic atmospheres that may lead the listener in another dimension, not only being a support for lyrics. That's what we always thought, so we didn't really change our way to write music. But it's true that we take more and more time to compose, to reach deeper and finer emotions.
7) Basically, I think you have developed your sound in a very interesting way if we consider all you have done since the very beginning, so how do you judge the entire evolution of Hide & Seek and what has been (if there is one ) the real turning point for you as a band?
It's a constant evolution. Along the years, I tried to define more and more precisely Hide&Seek's identity. I love very different kinds of music, so I don't want to limit my music to a typical stereotype like cold, folk or pop music. I always mixed my different influences, even if you can always recognise Hide&Seek's signature. Nevertheless, our next album will be probably more homogenised, based on specific instruments and effects, with more electric guitars and energy. Maybe it will be a kind of turning point.
8) I truly believe you have made a great step forward with the new album: both the production and the instrumental executions improved a lot, and I think all this made the whole album much more interesting and complete than the previous works. Do you agree, and how have you worked in order to obtain such a brilliant result?
Thanks. We just took time. Our label lets us free, we have no deadline contract. After 15 years of musical life, you don't feel no more hurry feeling to produce many songs. You can't be content with approximations. So we examine all the details, polish up voices and arrangements and add the final touches. We never hesitate to give up a song, even after many hours of work, if we don't feel something motivating and special in it.
9) I also think the many guests invited for the recordings of the album have helped a lot to get closer and closer to your musical vision: do you agree? And what can you tell us about the selection of the guests and the work they did for Hide & Seek?
Of course, guests are very important to provide more feelings. There was no selection. It was almost a question of coincidences, encounters and friendship. Julien Ash mixed one song, the result is great. Eric Milhiet alias Emeric (member of O Quam Tristis) who's also our bassist on stage, played flute and bass on a track.
10) A couple of things that hopefully didn't change in your sound are that genuine attitude to the songwriting and that little touch of 'madness' you show in some passages here and there: are these aspects actually important to you, and how?
It's just because we don't try to sound like another band. A friend of us told us one day "I like your new album, it looks like well I can't say which band it looks like !" We much appreciated of course.
You can feel madness in some passages precisely because we don't try to sound mad, experimental or terrific. So when something odd or surrealistic is placed in our songs, it makes more sense and gives deeper feelings. Madness is a part of anyone's personality, but rarely exteriorized. Our songs reflect this principle. Madness is present, but almost in discreet touches.
11) As we said "Where Turtles Sleep" is your most complete album so far, ranging from clam & delicacy to darkness and emotive tension: what's your point of view, and what are the things that actually determined the whole mood of the album?
The album is the reflect of our lifes and personalities, without concealing any part of it or focusing on an element that may be more attractive. It's simply human.
12) Being "Where Turtles Sleep" a much more complete and versatile work which can be appreciated also outside the 'dark/gothic' scene, do you still think Cynfeirdd is the proper label to be signed with? I'm sure that label is very professional and have the proper passion (just see their catalogue, it speaks for itself!), but maybe a bigger label would have given you more exposure what's your point of view?
Cynfeirdd is a very good label. Its catalogue is fascinating, because of the diversity of the styles : folk, ambient, heavenly voices, etc. Its distribution is wide and international. Artists are free to play the music they like : there is no condition to be released, just to stay yourself. It's a real independent label. Of course the pop facet of Hide&Seek could interest a major company and we would be happy to deal with a bigger label. But our goal is not to get a maximum exposure. I prefer to know that several hundred people hear our songs carefully, feeling special emotions, than a million people buy our CDs in supermarkets and listen at them doing their cooking. Anyway, we would examine any proposition with interest.
13) Talking about the conceptual contents of the album, what's the whole concept behind such a particular title like "Where Turtles Sleep"?
It's not really a concept. It's our way to illustrate and sum up all the atmospheres contained in the album. This title is mysterious. It makes you feel you'll reach another dimension, like a dark and secret home, or a way to reach your own subconscious. It's also a reference to Nature, which is always an important theme for Hide&Seek.
14) The main colour of the artwork is blue: why this choice, and what does this colour inspire to you when you watch the cover artwork?
Our producer designed the artwork. I asked him to answer your question ; here is his answer : "well, isn't the sea blue ? and when I watch at the cover I always think "need more light in this room" ! Well, I personally think it was a good choice, because the darkness of the photograph shows how deep is the dreamlike world that lies hidden in everyone's mind.
15) Talking about the lyrics, some of them seem to be related to your philosophy as persons, some others seem to be some kind of 'fantasy-metaphores' and some others are just dreaming: what can you tell us about the lyrics of the whole album? Is there a whole concept we can read through the lyrics of "Where Turtles Sleep"?
All the references you mentioned are interconnected. When I write lyrics, I let my thoughts free to mix personal memories, philosophy, social messages and aesthetic criteria. Of course my main interests and worries transcend the whole album and become visible : the curse of Time, the memories of childhood and human's condition.
16) I've noticed that you like to talk about animals, oceans and nature in general: what's your interest for such topics, and how do you intend to talk about them in your lyrics?
Nature is in everything. The irrational power of music is close to the feelings provided by great natural spaces, the strength of the elements and the mysteries of life. I never forget I'm just a mortal animal. Humanity is pretentious as it pretends to be the masterpiece of the creation.
17) Back to music, I have been surprised by many songs, in particular by "On The Balcony", which mixes darkwave tunes and electronic beats in a unique way: how have you worked in order to create such a particular song ?
The song was based on the rythm and the bass. The rythm came suddenly in my mind some years ago. Its a very organic song, though its coldwave style. The rest of the instruments and voices came in the second time. The rythm is very open and lets space and freedom for additional instruments. I like the result because it mixes light and darkness, like a moonlight. Also it was new and exiting for us to compose a dancefloor song ! It's a pleasure to play it live.
18) As in the past, your sound can be very delicate when it comes to soft tunes like "Clouds & Blue" and "Ghosts Of The Swimming Pool": what kind of importance you give to delicacy in your whole artistic project ?
I see what you mean. But those two songs are very different. When I compose, I always try to let to the silence a place in my music. When a note ends, it doesn't stops in the listener's mind as long as a new note of the same instrument didn't take it's place. You don't need to repeat it like a beat. I like minimalism because it respects the listener's sensibility. Clouds & Blue is based on this principe. Ghosts Of The Swimming Pool is most an atmospheric song, focusing of the sounds. But in both cases I respect a fundamental rule : each instrument must have its own place and not follow another instrument. That's because my bass lines are often real melodies that doesn't follow the bass drum. It's the same with the vocals. To compose a song is like drawing : if you put to much colours in the same place, it becomes heavy and ugly.
19) Some of the songs, especially a tune like "L'Armée Des Arbres", seem to show a connection between Hide & Seek and the typical French folk culture: do you agree? And how do you intend to bring some of you national folk culture into your music?
I don't know what's the French folk culture ! Even if some guitars sound folk on our albums, we don't consider us as a folk band. Folk music is beautiful, I do like and respect 70's and before folk movements. But Hide&Seek is rather an experimental-pop-cold-band, if we need to define a category !
"L'armée des Arbres" is a sarcastic joke, a bit influenced by The Lord of The Rings (a Scandinavian folk influence indeed !) It tells the revenge of the Nature on humanity through the story of a tree-prince avenging the death of it's bride.
20) Sometimes Hide & Seek seem to show a theatrical approach to the composition of the songs: are you actually interested in bringing some of the theatrical attitude in your music, and how ?
Maybe it's because most of the songs are clearly structured in several parts. Maybe it's the use of many samples. But it's not a conscient approach.
21) Another song that surprised me a lot is "L'Espoir", which brings in some interesting chillout and trip-hop influences: are you actually interested in developing these influences within your musical concept? Do you actually like chillout and trip-hop ?
Yes I like those styles ! I think I will explore them rather in my A Sparrow-Grass Hunt, because Julien Ash like them too.
22) I'd like to mention also "Childhood", which made me think of some kind of soundtrack somehow It seems like for this song you have tried to put some visions into music, isn't it? Would you be interested in writing soundtracks actually ?
Yes it would be a great experience. But it's not easy to find such opportunities. One time I composed a song for a film. It was an instrumental version of Ghosts Of The Swimming Pool.
23) Your whole sound is very difficult to describe, but still I think there's a red line going through the entire new album, even when the songs seem to have such a different approach: what's your point of view, and how would you describe your music without using the typical labels (ab)used by journalists ?
Not an easy question ! Well.... our music is maybe like a tiny house made with a childish construction game, with wooden pieces. This house conceals a miniature ecosystem, an library and a school. But in its attic, it's very dark.
24) What kind of things, feelings or artists have influenced you during the composition of "Where Turtles Sleep", and what kind of bands have been an important influence for you in general so far?
Our childs and our friends. Our dreams and our nightmares. Probably somes movies : Lost in Translation, Mulholland Drive, Stalker, Avallon, etc. Of course some band had an important influence on us. The Nits learned us the place of silence and instruments in a song. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and The Legendary Pink Dots gave me an idea of how sweet madness can be in music. The Cure and Minimal Compact : a certain sound for guitars. Robert Wyatt and Marc Hollis : the freedom of the harmonies and the structures.
25) With so many different influences as you probably have, what song/band would you choose if you should release a coverversion now?
So many ! recently we played a Nits song live, called Oom Pah Pah, a very strange and mysterious song. I'd always tried to cover an OMD song, but it's impossible for me to sing what they sing without sounding ridiculous !
26) Who's the typical fan of Hide & Seek? I think it's pretty difficult to put your fans into a specific category, but it seems you are more often associated with neofolk bands, in fact you have just played as support to Backworld Do you actually see the neofolk scene as 'your' scene, or are you trying to cross the borders of the typical 'elitarian' scenes?
I think most of our fans listen at gothic bands, because it's the gothic scene that supports us in France. Folk-music fans may appreciate our minimalist approach of music, our care to the Nature and some melancholic atmospheres and lyrics. But very different kinds of people appreciate our music because of the multiplicity of our influences and our reject of stereotypes. Many Hide&Seek fans are also thirty-years people that grew up and discovered music in the 80's, because that's what we are !
27) As we just said, you have just played as support to Backworld some days ago: what can you tell us about that show, and how is your live-show and stage line-up in general?
Yes indeed we played live with Backworld in the Klub (Paris), May 2007. It was great. The place is fantastic. The sound engineer was excellent. A1so I discovered Backworld that is a very good band. Their last album ("Good Infection") is wonderful.
On stage we play with a drummer and a bassist. Liesbeth plays synths and sings. I play guitar and sing. Olivier Vitry, the drummer, is a very good drummer, precise and subtle, rare qualities for a drummer. Eric Milhiet plays bass and some flutes ; he acquired a long experience of live shows in his main bands, Opera Multi Steel and O Quam Tristis. So our sound is quite different than on the albums, with more energy. We alternate atmospheric and powerful songs. Also it is very important for us to metamorphose our songs, not to play exactly the same as on the album. It is a challenge for us, certainly more interesting for the audience too.
28) What are you future plans? Any other release, any release with any side-project? Any other collaboration or compilation appearance? Are you going to play live in order to promote the new album?
Nowadays we are working on some tracks for a new Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites album. This summer we will also compose for a new A Sparrow-Grass Hunt project.
Some compilation appearances are forthcoming, notably an anniversary compilation for the French magazine Trinity.
We will probably play live in France in 2007 in several cities, but the shows are to be confirmed. I hope we may play live in Italy one day !
29) Before the "European Landscapes" album you have release 3 self-produced works (2 on tape, the other one on CD) which aren't available anymore now: will there be any chance to re-issue such works, or maybe re-record some of those tracks?
Well, past is past But you can listen at some old unreleased tracks on our website's auditorium at http://pylebeau.club.fr/index.htm
30) What can you tell us about the french scene? Is there any new name we should check out? After all it seems like there's always room for new bands and concerts in France
Yes indeed the French scene is very dynamic in many styles : goth, batcave, post-punk, experimental, heavenly voices, etc. There are many associations, fanzines and labels.
Check out O Quam Tristis, a very good band with beautiful songs, an unique sound, a wonderful live show and edited by an Italian label ! If you like experimental and neo classic atmospheres, Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites is an immersion in a fantastic world of music, mental images and sounds, a bit like The Legendary Pink Dots. Also we do like Mediavolo (cold and heavenly music like Cocteau Twins) and Gae Bolg, a monumental troubadour !
31) Last one: make yourself the question you always wanted to be asked (but never been), and give yourself/us the answer.
it's the nicest but most difficult question we've ever been asked
! We'll think about it and give you the answer in a next interview, if you like