Father Merrin interview

Answers of Stephane (Drums) for Father Merrin.

1. Hi Father Merrin! Here we go with the serious conversation. When did you start writing/producing music – and what or who were your early passions and influences?

Hi there! Father Merrin started late 2009. Three members came from a death/doom band so one could say our music is a bit reminiscent of this style. Each member of the band has his own passions and influences, which cover a wide range of musical styles… But some names are often mentioned to describe our style: CATHEDRAL, CELTIC FROST, SABBATH of course, and so on… We obviously love these bands – at various degrees depending on which band member you ask it – so we can say this kind of classic stuff is the point where our individual influences cross…

2. What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?

Tough question! Of course, our two studio releases – All is well that ends in Hell EP (2014) and our split-MLP with Parisian fellows Clegane (2018) – are achievements we are proud of. But from an internal point of view there are other turning points in our history, like line-up changes for example. A few gigs have also a particular meaning to us. For example, when we supported Abysmal Grief in our area last October. This turned out to be a perfect evening!

3. What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?

We don’t really set ourselves compositional goals. We just do our best, hoping to do a little better with experience. Production-wise it’s different because every format has its own specificity. We are currently working on our first full-length album, and this means a bigger amount of solid compositions. The sound must feel more professional too. Everything has to mark a big step further!

4. What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?

Usually, we start with a riff or a combination of riffs coming from our singer A, or our bass player J. Our guitarist T has been in the band for a year and a half but has already brought a lot of music. He prefers to bring full song skeletons. All this shit is then worked together in the rehearsal room. That’s when we try a lot of things, regarding the structure or our individual parts. I know A has lyrics ideas quite early in the process, but I don’t know if the lyrics sometimes inspire his riff ideas. I’ll have to ask him!

5. How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

I can’t speak for the others, so I don’t know if their riffs can come from improvisation. But during the following step, we jam and work on the structure and there might be a little bit of improvisation here and there, but I’m not sure if we can call it that way… Improvisation to me is a “real musician” thing you know… So, regarding our own case, I would use more the word “spontaneity”. And Spontaneity can happen at other stages, like finding a cool arrangement while you’re already in the studio!

6. How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?

Composition involves four guys making ugly sound together in the same space? Just kidding of course, but after all this could be a serious answer: the link between sound and space might be the musician… This is at least a good way to avoid a tough question!

7. Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?

No that’s not important for me. If the audience is brought “elsewhere” with the music, it’s alright for me. But we play a style that’s quite down to earth I believe, so it is not difficult to guess where we go, and where we aim to take the listener. Therefore, it’s equally easy to know if you like what we do or not. That said, I think about our style as a whole, so that the music alone isn’t enough to understand our approach. It’s an ensemble: music, lyrics, artwork, and of course stage performance.

8. In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?

I think cultural differences have definitely a big influence on both sides. Metal music is a good illustration, as some metal bands manage to make their geographic origin a creative force, a specificity to remember. And the same goes for the perception of sound. Metal is seen as noise by lots of people of the same culture in the countries where this music was born, so you can only imagine how people who live far from our “civilization” would react to this kind of music… It’s of course a very schematic answer, but this is a vast question…

9. The relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema most importantly – has become increasingly important. How do you see this relationship yourself and in how far, do you feel, does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?

I would even say that sometimes, combination of two forms of art can produce pure magic, when they express the same kind of feelings. Literature and music are a good example. Of course, I think music relates to other senses. If not, why being a musician? Music can make you see things, sometimes touch them, in an abstract way obviously. Everyone has his own relationship with music, but it can be a catalyst for many experiences. Learning about yourself is one of them, and not the smallest one.

10. There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today: On the one hand, a move towards complete virtualization, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And, on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles?

The second option, definitely! But I am no purist. Nowadays, you can’t deny, for example, the advantage of digital files while in the car, even if it doesn’t sound the same obviously. There is no mystery, you will forever cherish what you have known during your teenagerhood. And for me it was that transitional period between vinyl and CD. But you know, it didn’t affect the fact we were recording tapes, whatever the original format. So, physical presentation will always have my preference but, as long as we can keep on discovering new music, it’s OK for me. With Father Merrin, we try to release beautiful objects, and it goes with the overall approach we talked about above. I hope people got that.

11. What changes would you like to see to the music industry to allow you to make a living from your music?

I got the chance to play in a real band quite late, so I never planned to make a living from it. And honestly, I don’t know if doing so is the best way to keep the passion intact. Don’t you sometimes think, about some popular band, that it was at its absolute best when its members were hungry, sometimes in the first meaning of the word? Of course, the current scheme of music industry kills almost every hope to become a professional musician. But on the other hand, releasing your music and doing your own promo has never been so easy… So, stop crying and blaming on the others and use this time to practice your art! If there is justice, you’ll gain at least a little consideration.

12. The role of an artist is always subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?

I feel uncomfortable on this matter for several reasons. I like very few bands that spread a political and/or social message, simply because I don’t feel concerned most of the time. I prefer when music is stimulating more abstract parts of my mind, as said above. But everyone has his own sensitivity. This kind of messages have to be used in subtle ways. Their authors must not preach, because if they do, they give themselves the right to give lessons, which I fucking hate. Even more when an artist expresses his views outside of the context of his art. I’m glad that all the members in Father Merrin agreed on a more abstract approach. That doesn’t mean there are no messages in our music and lyrics of course. But these are certainly not lessoning or something…

13. Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What’s your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change our perception of it?

I don’t think the value of music suffers of it, but you’re right, finding good stuff is challenging. Everyone can easily release his own music, so a big part of the selection that was made by record labels doesn’t exist anymore. Bands that can barely play release what they call “albums” with a poor sound and all… But a lot of really creative bands that would never have gotten the chance to sign a deal can now be renown without external “filter”. There are also other factors in quality decrease. I can’t understand why albums are sometimes released on CD-r for instance. And even very big bands sometimes do it. I bought a SAINT VITUS CD at their merch booth at a gig, and it was a fucking CD-r!

14. How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?

That would involve a change in general public’s way of thinking, which is not happening tomorrow! What non-mainstream music in general would gain in being appreciated by wider audiences is another debate. From time to time in the past decades, rock has become “cool”, and that’s when shitty acts emerged to make it a trend and earn money on it.

15. Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the artist to win over an audience. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?

The role of the listener is important, of course. Especially in our kind of music where a record requires a lot of attention sometimes. But the fulfillment you feel after having made it yours is highly rewarding. Regarding the live aspect, maybe the fact of requiring an active process from the listener also explains why people tend to prefer paying to see fucking cover bands rather than genuine ones? Anyway, as a band, there is a difference between winning over an audience and trying to please it. If you are in the second case, do yourself a favor and stop now!

16. Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What’s your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?

Once again this is a matter of pre-selection of bands by PR agencies and labels, then journalism. I read metal magazines and to me, in France, only one of them is honest in his approach. The current context has not changed the principle that much, since it has always been the listener’s choice to dig deeper into the underground to satisfy his urge, or just listening to big names. For a band like Father Merrin, there is no debate about promo because we’re an underground band who does almost everything by himself. Sleeping Church Records, who took part in the release of our recent Split-MLP, works with a PR company, but as far as I know, it is also a quite underground one.

17. Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.

We’ve already been asked this, so I think it would be fair not to recommend the same bands every time! At the moment we love the first Kåabahl LP, a very good French old-school death metal act.

18. Thank you for your time!

Thanx to you and Metal Militia for giving us a chance to express ourselves on quite unusual topics! If you are into slow and powerful metal, feel free to come to us or take a listen! See ya on the road!