Before the release of Marionnettiste, their first album, I had the opportunity to ask the band Exanimis some questions.
Hello and first of all thank you for your time! How would you describe Exanimis’ music to someone who doesn’t know you?
Alexandre Dervieux (vocals/guitar): Hello and thanks for this interview! To make it simple, I’d say we play Death Metal with various influences from classic Death to Prog or more modern Techn Death, accompanied by a very cinematic orchestra, supported by Opeth-ish vocals!
Where does the name Exanimis come from? Can you please tell us a bit about the band’s visual concept?
Alex: The name directly comes from latin language which means “without life”! The idea is that the characters we embody inside of the band are the representations of several negative feelings, which can often manipulate people against their will, like if we are puppets of the life they don’t command anymore.
The band is about to release its first album, Marionnettiste, which marks some kind of first step in the “big league” for the band, are you satisfied?
Julien Prost (bass): More than this, we’re really proud! It’s the outcome of five years of work… sure it’s long but it was worth it, the final result perfectly fits to what we had in mind from the beginning.
What is the story behind Marionnettiste? What is the link with the artwork?
Alex: Conceptually speaking, the album is a succession of nightmares the listener lives, in which he or she follows characters who think they control their fate, but which are still manipulated by what they thought to be their strength in the end. The artwork represents both the fate’s frailty with the puppet cracked face in an oniric and baroque decor that also recalls our music.
How does the composition process happen for this album? What does inspire you to create it, about music or not?
Julien P: We globally have two different approaches that complete very well. Alex has a concept, an ambience or a theme in mind that he wants to translate into music, while I prefer to begin with more concrete stuff, like for example a guitar riff, a melody or an orchestral gimmick. The song The Wrathful Beast is a very good example. We are lucky to have common influences, which helped a lot into the creation process, I think to Fleshgod Apocalypse, SepticFlesh or Dream Theater, but not only, our influences come from cinema: Batman Returns, Lord of the Rings ou Dracula with their absolutely fantastic soundtracks are a good example, video games too with the Dark Souls saga and literature with H.P. Lovecraft’s art.
How does the collaboration with Klonosphere happen? Were they implied in the album conception or the band’s identity?
Julien Marzano (guitar): The collaboration with Klonosphere happened pretty late into the development of Marionnettiste actually. When they reached us out, the album was already recorded, mixed, illustrated… We even were in the lasts days of crowdfunding for the album release. So they were not implied into its conception at all. However, they’re really helpful to release it in the best conditions. They’re very professionals and they totally support us!
You had to call some guests musiciens for this album, about drums, leads, piano, Hammond organ and additional vocals, how was the contact with those musicians?
Alex: There’s a lot of people on the album, that’s right! We hired Clément Denys (Fractal Universe) as session drummer. About the others, they are musicians friends and we were super happy to make them participate for a solo or an interlude for example. Flavien Morel, who is responsible of the album mix/mastering, was okay to add his voice on many additional vocals all along the album!
Julien M: I’m a session musician myself at the beginning! The band’s former guitar player decided to suddenly quit the project, so we had to record very complex lead guitar parts before sending them to the studio… I only appear for the album’s two lead guitar parts, the end of Cogs and the reinterpretation of the Océan study from Chopin on the song Spume.
Julien P: I’ll add a small precision about solos on the album, they were written and recorded by Morgan Koch from Swarmageddon, who is an amazing guitarist and a long-time friend. The former guitarist decided to leave the band during the recording time, so we had to quickly find a solution and Morgan was the first person we had in mind, we gave him carte blanche and the output was better than what we expected.
I had the opportunity to listen to Marionnettiste to write my review, and it is a great album, both rich and solid. How did you have the idea to include this much elements to your Death Metal basis?
Julien P: Thanks a lot! It came very naturally actually, we are Death Metal fans, but we also like composers like Danny Elfman or Howard Shore to only name a few, so integrating an orchestra was obvious for us.
We also have three tracks on piano, why did you decide to separate the other songs by those ones?
Julien P: The idea was to cut the album in two, the first part is more direct and brutal, while the second one takes its time, with longer and worked tracks… to let ears rest a bit too haha!
You already unveiled two songs, The Wrathful Beast and Cogs, Gears & Clockworks, in order to familiarize the audience to your universe, why did you choose those ones precisely?
Alex: Those two songs seem to be the most representative of the band’s different musical aspects for us. One is quite direct and violent, even in its harmony, while the other is more grandiose and progressive, showing more the oniric side of our music.
One of your songs, Cathedral, lasts more than sixteen minutes. Even if all your songs easily overpass the “standard” duration, why did you choose to make such a ling song? What is this song’s story?
Alex: The song had to be worth its name, like a giant building which seems to crush you by its height, but here it is a big song of sixteen minutes haha… More seriously, we like the idea of a “river” song a lot to beautifully conclude the album, like some bands often do, as Dream Theater or Symphony X. The song is about a cannibal priest that finally becomes the god of its own cult, but who is devoured and manipulated by his own insatiable hunger.
I know that Covid-19 fucked a lot of things up in 2020, how did you deal with the situation as a band? How do you see 2021? Do you already have plans that you can tell us, for the album promotion for example.
Julien M: At the beginning, Marionnettiste was even supposed to be released in 2020… The album is mixed and mastered since the end of 2019… We barely had the time to record the clip of Cogs, Gears & Clockworks in february 2020 and then… nothing… We look at the situation, we really hope to quickly defend Marionnettiste on stage. But even with so much uncertainty about the sanitary situation, it was time for us to release Marionnettiste, to focus on its promotion and even to begin the writing process of Exanimis’ second album. About future plans or promotions… We’re not youtubers or instagrammers and we don’t really imagine to promote Exanimis on a purely digital basis, we want real live, meet our audience. So we have to wait now.
What are your hobbies in life, aside from music? Which job would you choose if music wasn’t this important in your life?
Julien M: I would have continued my life of dynamix young executive in a company. Into financial security, but also into boredom haha!
Julien P: I’m a huge ski addict,even if nowadays it’s a bit complicated. I think that if I didn’t have music, I would have pursued infographics.
What was the very first Metal song you listened to? What was the one which make you think “I want to create a band and play on stage”? What can we expect of Exanimis on stage?
Alex: Feuer Frei from Rammstein! But the one that made me say I want this to be my job is A Nightmare To Remember from Dream Theater, I just said “I want to write songs like this one”.
Julien P: Papercut from Linkin Park, a friend offered me Hybrid Theory for my birthday the year of its release, then I discovered Iron Maiden’s Rock in Rio and while watching Steve Harris I knew I wanted to play bass haha! But the moment that really convinced me was when I first saw Dream Theater on stage, I remember I thought “that’s what I want to do!”. About the stage, we’re lucky enough to have our own visual universe and we want to use it to offer a real show to people, not just a gig.
Julien M: About myself, my big sister had the tapes of Iron Maiden’s Piece Of Mind and Metallica’s Black Album (I still have them…), so I am into this kind of music from the outset.
What do you like this much in Symphonic Death Metal? Do you already have an idea about the french and international scene about this music?
Julien P: I think that what I like the most, aside from the fact I love Death Metal and Classical music, is the writing freedom offered by the orchestra, we can give free reins to our imagination without being limited by the “classical” formation vocals / guitar / bass / drums. About the French Symphonic Death Metal scene, I admit that I don’t know about it, but in Europe we have extraordinary bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse in Italy or SepticFlesh in Greece which are huge inspirations for us, I hope that we could share the stage with them.
What is your best and your worst experience as a musician? Do you have any regret with Exanimis?
Julien P: I admit I had a lot, but if I had to pick just one I think it was during a tour in 2015 with one of my old bands, we were back from a gig in the Flanders region in Belgium, we were packed at five with all our gear in a Chrysler Voyager and in the middle of the highway, the car’s clutch broke, we had to stay 4 hours on the hard shoulder because the tow truck couldn’t find us… in the end the car was unusable and we had to cancel the rest of the tour… it was a huge moment haha! About the best, I think it is still to come, I precisely think to the day we will play Marionnettiste for the first time on stage.
What if I asked you to compare Exanimis’ music with a french dish? Which one and why?
Julien M: Some pork gums or… a stew haha! There are many things inside and you have to cook it for a long time before being able to eat it.
Julien P: That’s a tough question! We only have good meals in France, that’s hard to choose, but I’d say a boeuf bourguignon for, quite the same reasons as the stew but the red wine sauce makes the difference!
Is there a band or artist you could imagine integrating to Exanimis’ universe for a punctual or more durable cooperation?
Alex: I’d like to invite Richard Clayderman for a piano solo or FLorent Pagny on some backing vocals…
Julien P: Me personally I would be very happy to have a song with only piano composed by us but recorded by Francesco Ferrini.
Last question: with which bands would you love to tour? I let you create a tour with Exanimis and three other bands!
Alex: Without a doubt Fleshgod Apocalypse and SepticFlesh! The genre’s two biggest spearheads!
Julien M: In the same style I would add Carach Angren, I love this band!
Julien P: Well… my bandmates said right… bastards!
It was the last question for me, once again thanks a lot for your time, lasts words are yours!
Julien M: Comb.
Julien P: Anas unda capillis advenerit… well it doesn’t mean anything at all, but I think that’s a great conclusion.