Many of us are very familiar with Les Légions Noires, the dark association of French Black Metal musicians who in so many ways set the standard for the genre in France and way beyond, and we still hold it in high esteem to this day. For me, French Black Metal continues in this vein, and creates an atmosphere of malignant menace and eeriness that is both unique and readily identifiable.
Heteriik are the latest in a long line of Black Metal artists following in the magnificent wake of French peers such as Mutilation, Nehema, Insane Vesper, Deathspell Omega to name but a few. Although their excellent debut album La brillance des maux was written and recorded by sole member T.n.b.r. it really sounds like the work of multiple, highly accomplished musicians. On even the very first listen Heteriik’s debut is a rich, swirling maelstrom of evil, sinister darkness that is as laden with malice as it is strangely uplifting. Exploring lyrical themes that cover insanity, the philosophy of life and anti social tendencies, La brillance des maux will no doubt become yet another memorable contribution to Black Metal’s ever-expanding canon.
I talked at length to Tnbr about Heteriik and the ideas that inspire him to create such breath-taking soundscapes.
Congratulations on the release of La brillance des maux, a really good album. What are the ideas behind it, what are you expressing on this release?
Hailz! La Brillance Des Maux continues in the vein of A.T.R, the previous E.P, both in terms of the atmospheres and themes. The main idea with Heteriik is to invite you to explore the murky sides of humanity, on various levels. Some songs focus on spiritual or mental disorders for example. Another forces you to consider a filthy old woman at the end of her life, alienated and alone, and to consider what your own end might be.
On this album you still follow the character you’ve met in A.T.R., and you as the listener contemplate his path through interrogation, madness, answerless questions about the human condition, about his views regarding himself, his contemporaries, social dogma, what to do with the legacy of your elders and the knowledge stemming from this. The goal is to entice you, the listener, into the maze of a mind full of questions, frustrations, expectations, fears and also nightmares, wanderings, disillusion …
You play all instruments yourself, how long have you been playing and has it always been Black Metal?
I started studying music as a child, thanks to my family. I think the first instrument I learned was the transverse flute, then alto sax for quite a while. I still play alto and baritone sax, but only for myself (and the neighbours haha) at the moment. It’s great fun and a very colourful instrument. In parallel to music lessons I discovered drums, and that was a blast. So, I have worked on music more or less seriously ever since.
The sax part on the first track is composed and performed by a great musician, Vincent Dupuy, and on all Heteriik recordings the drumming is programmed. That is a deliberate choice. The writing and recording sessions are done very closely together in time so they can be genuine, true, as I see it for Heteriik, and time runs damn fast as you probably know. I’m also a perfectionist in terms of recording drums, and programmed drums were the best solution from my point of view. I have also tried to learn different Celtic instruments, and more recently the Talharpa, which I use on the last track. So, no, I’m not only playing Black Metal with all that stuff, but I often try to incorporate them into my music. Music is the main pillar in my human construction, and in my daily routine. There are not many days when I don’t have the time to play an instrument, and none at all when I don’t listen music.
How do you go about writing the tracks, do you start with a basic riff and build from there?
Sometimes it could be that way, like starting the writing process as a result of a riff that sounds, for me, perfect in terms of how it describes something. More often it goes with a feeling, an emotion, that I transcribe to music for a specific track, and it can be the rhythm guitars that come first and so on. I alternate the phases in my creative process. Some phases are an infinite, quiet desert of nothing, (that’s usually in that specific moment when my mind is working at 1000%). On the other hand, some writing sessions are full and abundant when everything falls into place very quickly.
Like a pressure cooker, when it’s time, let’s go! The fil rouge for Heteriik is to create and play honest, raw music, made with guts and a sense of darkness. I’m not necessarily interested in playing millimetre calibrated music, I’m seeking intimate and ‚pure‘ musical emotions first.
You are also a member of Verglas Sanglant right? What made you decide to start Heteriik? Are you taking a completely different approach with this project?
Heteriik is first a personal project, like an outlet for me. I don’t have any pressure to produce anything, I can do whatever I want and feel with this entity, when the time to create comes. I let it breathe and, in a way, I live the musical project until the pressure to deliver something more or less musical reaches its peak within me. And then I try to go further. It’s completely different to the process of working with a band. I create alone. With a band, you must take your time and keep the mind open to all the envies, needs, expectations, and so on, of each member. It’s a great pleasure and a fantastic experience, and the contribution is never only musical. You learn to know your mates in a specific way that only a band can offer you. Sometimes, the creative time available is not the same for everyone, due to personal life, work and other stuff. That’s something you don’t need to worry about with a solo project haha. As say, I’m subject to my psychological process. I don’t have the ability to create good and genuine stuff on demand. So yes, it’s a fully different approach and experience, and I’m very glad to be able to do both.
Do you have many specific musical influences? What is your view of French and Canadian Black Metal, still as strong as ever?
In all honesty, some bands do have an influence on my work, of course, even if I take great care not to be a copycat hehe. Bands like Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord, the early works of Peste Noire, Leviathan, Nachtmystium, Nyktalgia, just to cite some, have left a deep impression on me. But also some in other musical genres, like Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Chopin, Yo Yo Ma just to name a few. All of them have, in my view, a common point: they know how to transcribe emotions and feelings in music, in a way that feels for me genuine and clear.
There are so many musical scenes and so much to discover! The French scene is always interesting, with many variations of Black Metal. And the present work of those who were involved very early on in this scene helps maintain a high level of quality. You find the same, just maybe on a more concentrated basis in Canada, and especially in Quebec. There are fewer bands there than in France maybe, which is not bad hehe, but high quality and sincerity. Go listen to Ifernach, who speak about First Nations in their songs, Néfaste which is pure black jewellery, Nalzer who can create very astonishing atmospheres, Sorcier Des Glaces of course and all the “Metal Noir Quebequois” stuff. On the other hand, there are always bands who create bad music and have poor motivation and a weak spirit. Black Metal isn’t a money game, or a place to seek notoriety let alone a safe place. If you’re looking for that, you have missed the entire point. Go do some pop instead.
You mentioned the ‚murky side of human nature‘ as an influence, which I find really interesting. Why does this side of humanity attract your interest? Do you regard humans as inherently flawed?
Because nothing is as simple as black or white or yes and no, everything exists in shades. The social side that everyone tries to master, more or less, is as interesting as your true nature, so you can at least glimpse the other sides of yourself if you look closely enough. To sum it up, that’s my interest in human nature: I find the flaws to learn about others and myself, and finally grow a little bit myself.
The concept of failure seems mechanical to me, speaking of objects that are either inert or devoid of their own will applies. For a human, the concept is more uncertain. What does failure mean in terms of behaviour, decisions and actions? On which data table should we base ourselves? The one that your environment or your society imposes? That of morality, law and order? And at what price, ultimately? That of all your neuroses, your frustrations, your social prohibitions. The human being is not necessarily defective, but certainly weak. It is a part of our common heritage that is undeniable and present, all the time. It is sad, pitiful, unbearable at times, disgusting often, human all the time. And paradoxically, it is beautiful.
You also mention the spiritual dimension as a key theme of yours, could you say a little more about that?
The spiritual dimension could be what differentiates a human being from an animal, the ability to reflect, to question and the fear of emptiness and death that is linked to it. Faced with this fear and all the questions that revolve around it, humans have been telling themselves beautiful stories ever since they were able to communicate to try to reassure themselves, and also often to perceive some kind of greater power.
What interests me is this trans-generational transmission of original traumas and the myths that accompany them. The fact that in all religions the same themes recur again and again is a factor demonstrating both the universality of existential questions and their uselessness, in my opinion. That being said, the spiritual dimension obviously goes beyond fables and other suras, which can for some be very good books for life and development. It’s also what you’re going to do with your capacity for reflection, introspection, projection, how you’re going to struggle with trying to tame your traumas. The only thing that is certain, even before you are born, is that you will face death one day or another. You are free to take an infinite number of possible paths beforehand. Some are shorter than others, and sometimes your body or your mind speeds up this moment. I am thinking of course of illnesses, of birth conditions, but also of what you decide to do with the time you have, without knowing how long it will last. If you choose to live without ever asking yourself any questions, to move on to fill your plate, to have children because that’s the established pattern in your home and to die in a hospice that you’ve spent a lifetime paying for, that’s up to you. Your spiritual life can simply be considered dead before it begins. Another point of interest, as I see it, lies in the intimate intertwining of the psychic and physical condition, and in all the trials and tribulations that have been endured since the ancient Greeks tried to better understand the human condition.
Heteriik have released an intelligent, thought provoking album that is not only sonically brilliant, but also contains lyrical themes that relate directly to all of us. It hardly needs saying that we are all born, and that we will all die at some unknown future time. How we fill that time, how we live our lives in the time we have is, as Tnbr rightly says, entirely up to us. Life is by equal parts dark, brutal and terminal, but also beautiful, sensual and ultimately wide open for us to explore. What will you do with yours?