I was surprised when I first heard the album of the French band Malediction, coz they remind me of the early 80's stuff from France and I like the French vocals. So I took the chance and did an interview by email with guitarist Mathieu Poulain.
Please let's travel back in time... Tell us about the beginning of the band and who you came up with the band name!
The two Mollard brothers (Sylvain singer / guitarist) and Nicolas (drummer) play together for more than 13 years. They formed Malediction when they were joined in '97 by Olivier (bass) and François (guitar). After having performed covers from Megadeth, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, they started to write their own songs.
During May 1999, François left the band (he joined Yyrkoon, a Black / Death Metal outfit), I joined them to play the shows and finally I won my place in Malediction. Right after that we recorded in November 1999 our first five song demo to work on our songs and to expose our name to media and to the French Metal audience.
We did a good amount of shows after that and we went into the studio (during January 2001) to record our 1st album Condamnés.
Sylvain came up with the name Malediction. I won't hide you that it's hard to find a good band name and I think ours is good, because it's easy too keep it in mind, it's mysterious and deal with dark side of things. Well we like it for it's crushing side!
You started as a cover band. Play songs of the big names in heavy metal. Why do you decided to write your own songs in French?
Our influences comes mainly from the Anglo-Saxon side with Judas Priest, Crimson Glory, Megadeth, Ozzy (!!) etc... And it's only recently that we have discovered French metal bands from the 80's like ADX, Warning. Without influencing us musically, those few bands have showed us that you can do something real interesting in French (even in metal). Also that choice to sing in French gives even more uniqueness to Malediction, it separates us from the rest of the Metal scene. Very often we got asked, if that choice wasn't suicidal in a Metal world monopolized by English and today we can say that this choice gives us the chance to bring out the originality that a lot of actual bands are lacking of. Look at a band like Rammstein which has managed to impose its style and its German singing!!!!
This said we have to offer a powerful music and effective lyrics because too many French bands have burnt themselves, because of a shitty sound(!) and stupid lyrics(!!).
How would you describe your music? What inspires you musically?
To resume a little bit what I said just before, we can say Malediction mix a very influenced Anglo-Saxon music with a heavy French type of singing.
As a singer, Sylvain is very much influenced by singers such as Rob Halford or 'Midnight' from Crimson Glory. Musically we like a lot Judas Priest, King Diamond or actual bands such as Children Of Bodom, Death, or Primal Fear. We like and we're looking for a powerful music: powerful riffs, melodies in the singing and in the guitar work, contrasted atmospheres, in other words, real heavy metal!!
How do you choose the topics? What inspires you lyrically?
To get our music more effective, we have to come with harmonious lyrics, interesting with a good degree of credibility, that's why we have chosen themes like The Iron Mask (Le Masque De Fer). Le Fils De Satan is inspired by Rosemary's Baby etc...
We choose interesting subjects with a great deal of ideas to be certain to be able to create a special atmosphere for a song. We like everything which is close to the occult and mysterious side; we're not really interested to sing about society's problems.
I have to confess that I like the French lyrics, even if I can't understand them. But for many fans bands who don't sing English aren't interesting. Isn't it a limitation to sing only French?
I think the only limitation lies in the fact that English has always been the language for Rock'n'Roll and people are not used to listen to Metal sung in another language!!
Even if the Metal world has stayed quite conservative in that Domain, I think the apparition of bands like Rammstein, Tierra Santa etc. shows really well that those bands have nothing to envy to the English bands, even in their national language.
Beside that, bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest has got a huge success in France, even if French people are hopeless in English (in general of course!!!). So, everything can happen, you simply must try!!
With L'Horloge you have a track which lyrics based or adopted from a poem of Baudelaire. How come?
Back at the time, Maud (the lyricist) was reading Les Fleurs Du Mal (Flowers of Evil) from Charles Baudelaire and offered the text of L'horloge to Sylvain who had already written the music, they worked together to adapt the lyrics to the music and that's how L'horloge was born.
Nowadays I'm writing all the lyrics, but Baudelaire remains a great inspiration.
Another surprise for me is the cover version Les Enfants de l'ombre. Why this ADX classic?
We were looking for a cover and a fast paced tune was lacking on the album, we wanted a powerful, melodic song and sung in French of course!! So we choose that tune Les Enfants De L'ombre. ADX is certainly the band that we like the most out of all the French outfits from the '80s that we know.
Actually this simple artwork isn't on nowadays standard. Who did the artwork? Is it based on an idea of the band?
We have worked with somebody Sylvain knew in Paris. We really wanted to represent and symbolize the album title Condamés through a drawing like this.
It's true that the cover doesn't look very 'actual' and it got some criticism for being somewhat ludicrous and dated. But it's what we wanted for a 1st album and we assume it. This aid, for the 2nd album, we're gonna do something different, maybe more actual while still retaining the touch of that first album.
You produced the album yourself and you did a great job. Do you think that a producer, who isn't involved like you, couldn't understand how you imagine your sound?
Oh, I don't know, but what's certain, for the 2nd album if we sign with a producer, we want to have complete freedom for our choices concerning the album sound. We have succeeded in creating our own personality in our music, our sound and lyrics. So, it's not to see an outsider coming and ruin all of this. Anyway we're looking for a heavier sound for the 2nd album and we want to evolve in our sound and songwriting.
Or do you think that it's more effective to spend the money for something else than for a big name producer?
I think that if we were all rich, we could afford to pay three months in a studio with Tsangarides (producer of Painkiller from Judas Priest) or somebody else. But unfortunately it's not for tomorrow! Like for Condamnés we're gonna study the best way to produce that second effort (to guarantee the band future and for not being ripped off). Right now we write the new material, but we already have to think about this.
How do you write songs? As a band? Or does someone come with a finished song?
For Condamnés, Sylvain has been the main songwriter. He worked alone on the nucleus of the songs and with Maud for the texts then the songs were sharpen in rehearsals and everybody could add their ideas.
When I joined them, I soon tried to get involved into the writing (Apocalypse for example) and I write all the lyrics for the upcoming 2nd album. For us, a song is never finished until it's not on the album; we search until the deadline new arrangements to get it more effective.
How are the reactions so far?
Reactions have been extremely good in France and outside. Condamnés got very well received by the media and especially by the Metal fans. We managed to get interviews everywhere (like this one!!) due to our live appearances and also by word of mouth.
We even got voted as 6th as Metal hopes (all nationalities) in a poll from Hard Rock magazine when four months prior to that nobody knew Malediction!!
All this is extremely encouraging and we want to continue despite the difficulty to play traditional French Metal in 2002!!
Do you had the chance to play live after the release of your debut?
Absolutely! After the release of the album (June 2001), we had the opportunity to open for Saxon in Paris (16/10/2001) in a sold out hall! It was amazing experience! A huge sound, hot crowd, reception and playing conditions extremely professional.
Our show was a click for the French media who had more or less ignored our album, so this gig helped us a lot to receive attention from the media and the Metal fans!
Then on December, 11th 2001 we have played with Edguy at the Laiterie in Strasbourg, it was extremely interesting to play far from where we live and despite that the public reception was killer!
We also have played some good festivals like in Hirson with Within Temptation, Nina Hagen and Vanden Plas (8/6/2002) or in Attignat with Killers (1/6/2002) for example.
We were supposed to go on tour with Heavenly and Nightmare throughout France, but it got cancelled due to technical problems.
What's absolutely great since those two shows with Saxon and Edguy, it's the organizers who contact us to play now! Maybe we have won a little bit of notoriety (while staying modest)?? Anyway, it's extremely encouraging and for us the next step would be to go to play in foreign countries as we're somewhat curious to see the reaction from a foreign audience who doesn't speak French.
Have you already started writing new material? Can you tell us something about?
Yes, we work on the new tunes, three are almost finished and we have a lot of ideas. This said, we take our time and we think bout the method that we're gonna use to produce them. We want our 2nd album to be a good and even better than the first and we want to keep complete freedom on our material.
Will you record at the same studio?
No, I don't think so. With Jean Taxi from the studio Val D'Orge, we did some good work and learnt a lot, but we want to evolve in our sound and in the production. So, I think that if we work again with him, we're gonna stay close to the sound of the 1st album, that's why we're gonna look for another studio.
When can we expect a follow-up of Condamnés?
Oh, next year I hope!!! We're working on the new material at our pace as we want to make sure to come up with the best arrangements as possible.
Have you thought about adding a short English note to the French lyrics in the next booklet? I would welcome it and hope that you continue with French lyrics!
Yes, that's a good idea. It could help us expanding the band in foreign countries!!! I think the foreign fans would appreciate that.
Are there any plans to play festivals this summer? Or for a tour in fall?
We did two interesting festivals in June 2002: Beast in Bresse with Killers (near Lyon) and the Hirson Festival with Within Temptation, N. Hagen, Vanden Plas. Those are not big festivals yet, but it was extremely cool to play open air gigs in front of a good audience.
We would love to play bigger ones next year (like Graspop or Wacken maybe! It would be killer!!). I tell you, we want always more!!!!
Many young bands say that the internet helped them a lot. You are around for several years. Did you feel a positive effect for your band?
It's undeniable!! The internet is a fantastic communication tool for the bands, it helped us to get known in France and especially outside with the webzines, mailing lists and through our website (www.malediction.fr.st). Faster than traditional mailing and less expensive than phone, today it's an essential marketing tool. You need to live with your time, and with all those advantages it gives us the means to inform our fans way faster.
What do you think about MP3? Couldn't it help a young band to reach more fans?
To be honest, bootlegging via MP3 doesn't worry me much. I think the fans will always buy the albums by respect and by passion, because the cover and the booklet are a part of the album.
What must worry me more is the demential CD prices and what the State put in his pocket with this good old tax called T.V.A., not forgetting the big distributors who take also a good part of the cake.
To come back to the MP3 thing, I think it's a good way to have a large audience discovering the music. For example we have put bits of our songs on our site and I think it's a good thing for those who still have doubts about buying our album!!
There are not many bands we know from France... In the past there were Trust, Sortilège, Fisc, H-Bomb and many more... Even if there are more bands these days which come from France like Heavenly and Dyslesia. But still no that much... Why do you think that still there are just a handful of bands make themselves known outside France?
Well, there are several reasons for that. Maybe the French labels don't try hard enough to export the bands. Maybe the bands themselves are not enough organized and doesn't have enough big shoulders to promote themselves and play in foreign countries (the language barrier is an obstacle also for some). Maybe certain media shouldn't wait to see the band getting big outside of France to put their interest into them.
But I think Internet can contribute a lot to the promotion of French acts in the world and we have to take profit of that. Despite our French singing, we want to go out and meet other audiences. Staying locked in France would be a huge mistake from us.
Is it easy for you to get the attention of the French metal fans? Or is the huge international scene makes it hard anyway?
Despite a certain revival these last years, the French Metal scene remains underground and try to survive. It's mostly because of associations and die-hard fans that the bands can play shows. The fans in France exist and ready to help bands, but we need quality structures (and in quantity) to offer them good bills near where they live. Despite that, we are surprised sometimes by the craze (a bit crazy at times) of our fans, they seem to be more and more at each show and don't hesitate to contact us to support us. One of the reasons for that craze is the fact that we're close to our fans and we don't consider them as customers (like certain bands does, those who think they're stars!).
We like to talk with 'em after the shows and to have a good laugh while drinking beer!!!!!
What can we expect from Malediction in future?
To be able to continue what is started: release a 2nd album, play big shows, a tour, reach more and more Metal fans in France and outside France!!! We really want to go our way and going as far as possible!! It's a long way with lots of obstacles but we want it!
Famous last words.... Anything you want to tell your fans?
I hope this interview will give you the envy to learn more about Malediction.
Don't hesitate to contact me via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you want to know more.
But most of all, I hope we'll have soon the opportunity to come in your country to show you what we can do - French Metal has balls! Bye!
Thank you very much for answering my questions and enlighten me and many others about Malediction! I hope that I'll have the chance to see them live and if you have, use your chances!