Interview : Benighted – English

At Hellfest Corner, during a cool february afternoon, Julien Truchan and Emmanuel Dalle from Benighted are here to talk about Obscene Repressed, their new record, that will be out on Season of Mist. Thanks to HIM Media.

The album develops the story of little Michael, a young man affected by a cleft palate, an important facial deformation, that fights against an unresolved oedipal issue with his mother. But human psyche is complex, and this internal struggle is far from won, especially with his mother’s rejection due to his hideousness.
Photo promo: Anthony Dubois
Album review
(Unfortunately the band’s plans could have change due to Covid-19, mainly live projects, ED)

Version Française ?

First of all hello and thanks for being here! How are you guys?
Julien Truchan (vocals): We’re fine! A bit tired because we’re up since 4 AM to come to Paris. But it’s fine!
Emmanuel Dalle (guitar): It’s a bit hard today, but we’re fine!

Your album, Obscene Repressed, will be out in two months, are you confident of what you did?
Julien: We’re reassured about the goals we set.
Emmanuel: We’re happy of what we’ve done, but confident… we don’t know how people can react!
Julien: I’m not worried at all! I’m so happy with this album, so however the welcome it will have, I’m happy!
Emmanuel: There’s also the pride of doing something we like. We already had some feedback, and it’s pretty positive! We’re album of the month on a media…
Julien: It’s only the beginning, but for now it’s very positive yeah.
Emmanuel: We will see after this, but for now it’s cool!

So how did the composition process happened?
Emmanuel: Well we did the same process since Necrobreed (2017) and Dogs Always Bite Harder Than Their Master (2018). I write songs myself, I do guitar, bass and drums at my place, I record demos and I send the to the rest of the band. I forgot to say that we’re separated from each other, so that’s also why we work like this. I do everything at home, I send everything and I wait for their feedback. “This riff is shit” (laughs). Generally, it works pretty well, and some days after we manage Julien to come home in Dijon for working on the songs’ structures and to make them the more effective. We also work on vocal parts.
Julien: That’s it, we work together, we’re usually the two of us at Emmanuel’s place to work on songs he composed, working again on structures to make them as powerful as possible. Something fun is that he has a real musical culture and I don’t have any, I’m not musician at all!
Emmanuel: And that’s really effective!
Julien: Sometimes I have ideas that will never come to Emmanuel’s mind, and vice versa!
Emmanuel: Sometimes I’m outraged by what he says to me, he has ideas and I’m like “No, that’s impossible! Musically talking, that’s impossible!” (laughs). But in the end, we try, and sometimes indeed it doesn’t work (laughs), but sometimes… that’s something I didn’t think about at the beginning, but it fits! We really like to work like this since three productions, and it works very well.

Julien, the last time we had an interview, it was for French Metal in 2017, so it’s been three years. Since then, there were tours, an EP and now the new record, do you think that the band evolved a lot in three years?
Julien: There’s one thing that I am sure, today’s line-up is the most solid line-up that I’ve seen. Technically talking and also about musical rigour. Now I have the bests musicians that Benighted ever had, we know each other very well, it’s been three years that we play together since the last member enters the band, and I’ve never new Benighted as such a warmachine on stage, this powerful about every instruments. Harmony is really good on stage, and I think that we offer the most brutal shows ever in the band’s career.
Emmanuel: Over and above that, we all get on very well, just like brothers. So it’s something you can feel, we have fun and there’s never stress between us! Even during the composition process we never argue and we quickly agree.
Julien: It’s very democratic, that’s all. Who’s okay, who’s not? And that’s easy, everybody agree to work like this. But I really think that today’s line-up… I never thought that we could have such technical songs and play them as efficiently on stage. Musicians that we have today… between Emmanuel, Kévin Paradis (drums) that is a real killer internationally… he’s able to hold insane tempos while doing such complex stuff… having this dude behind the drums and see all that he added to the new album, we’re very lucky to have such a line-up.
Emmanuel: Let’s notice that drummers that work their instrument this much is rare while talking about composition. Because on all productions that I wrote, I usually write drums and they just record it. But he followed the broad lines and reworked them with an insane style.
Julien: He also added his personal touch.
Emmanuel: We directly recognize him! It’s not this usual in bands, typically guitar players are composers, but Kévin has real composing abilities, and he’s a drummer! That’s not a common thing (laughs)!

On the record there are three guest musicians, there is Grimo from Cytotoxin, the famous…
Julien: Jagger from Disbelief!
Exactly! And a less known one, Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed
Julien: Yeah, he does Hardcore with a bandana… (laughs)
So how did you choose them?
Emmanuel: It was a random draw (laughs)! And unfortunately, we picked him!
You’re lucky, you could have pick Epica’s singer!
Julien: Oh my god! That would have been beautiful (laughs)! The most natural one was Grimo. We toured with Cytotoxin during a month, and we never had Grimo as a guest on a Benighted album. On a personal level, he’s a close friend, and the song The Starving Beast with our voices combination we perfectly imagined what it could be, quickly alternating our voices. The second one, Jagger from Disbelief, it was nearly dumb actually. On this beautiful track called Mom, I Love You The Wrong Way, while I was singing the chorus I caught myself trying to have some Obituary tones at the end of some words, and I was like “Why the Hell am I poorly doing this while Jagger can do it way better than me?” (laughs). So we reconsidered the song with Jagger’s voice and we send him a message. He said “For sure, I meet you at the Kohlekeller Studio and we do this together!”. It was an easy thing. About the collaboration with Jamey it was a bit different. Usually we ask for collaborations with people we know, or people we toured with, or it can be a tribute but in any case we already had a contact before. Jamey, we never had a contact with him, excepted a quick picture at Summerbreeze ten years ago (laughs). And I learned by someone that a year ago, he did a podcast where he talked about Benighted and streamed one of our videoclips. So I was like “maybe he likes us”. I personally am a big Hatebreed fan since Under the Knife (1996) and while talking with the guys we thought that it would be awesome to have a guest that is apart of Death/Grind/Extreme Metal. A famous singer like Jamey Jasta on our album, that would be amazing! So I send a message to Nuclear Blast, Hatebreed’s label, through Marcus, a guy that I talked before and that also loves Benighted. Marcus said “That would me awesome to have such featuring! I send an email to Jamey, it’s possible that he doesn’t answer because he’s one of the most busy guy I know, but let’s try!”. I was thinking that we had like one-in-ten chance? And two weeks later, I received an email from Marcus saying “Jamey is okay! Jamey let me introduce you Julien, Julien here is Jamey, just do your thing together!” with Jamey’s email as copy. When I received the email I was so shy and so happy! “Hello Jamey, well… nice to meet you!” (laughs). He asked me to send him the song, and I gave him the instrumental track, he immediately liked it. We talked about vocal parts, so I went at a friend of mine’s place to record some vocals, I recorded everything, and he said “That’s killer! I send you my vocals in some weeks!”. Before having them, I didn’t believe it was true. We never know, he can accept and don’t have enough time, or something can go wrong… And when I received his mail saying “Here is what I recorded, just tell me if it’s okay for you”… we were like “okay it’s done!”. And this song it a total hit, I love it! It’s different from what we usually do with Benighted
Emmanuel: For sure it’s different…
Julien: But with Jamey’s vocals!
Emmanuel: That’s the touch that makes it more different!
Julien: It’s kind of hybrid in the middle of the album, but with this our album has a great relief! There’s a melting of many different things, so that makes it rich from beginning to end. It’s not a linear Death Metal album that you listen and say “Yeah, that’s killer!” but you don’t keep anything in mind.
Emmanuel: That’s what we tried to avoid, we didn’t want that the only thing you keep in mind is blast and growl.
Julien: Exactly! That is the complete opposite of what we are looking for, we want that people can say which track is their favorite.
Emmanuel: We want that something stands out, on every track you can keep at least one chorus easily in mind, lyrics or a guitar riff. That’s the way we compose.

About the artwork, how did you had the idea?
Julien: Well for the artwork we worked with Gary Ronaldson for Necrobreed and the EP, who did a marvelous job. But Gary was overbooked, and he started to get tired of artworks, so we didn’t want to bother him. And it wasn’t for his artworks but for his work as a tattoo artist that we started discussing about Grindesign… he’s a killer! In my opinion, he’s like one of the world’s best tattoo artists! He has a morbid imagery that perfectly corresponds to what I’m into. There is this gloomy aspect that makes you think “That’s filthy but I like it!” (laughs). So we considered asking him. He already realised a t shirt for us some years ago, and he said yes. I send him the whole story, and some sketches of what I had in mind. I also send the sketches to the band (laughs).
Emmanuel: For sure that was only sketches! Only drafts made by pen (laughs)
Julien: He sne dme every step of what he was doing to have my confirmation! I just gave him some instructions, but it was only details. And when I received the final artwork, I was like “Fuck… it’s insane!”. I thought it was wonderful about the symbolic aspect, because of what it represents compared to what I had in mind about the little boy’s internal struggle about his Oedipus Complex related to his mother but he doesn’t want to admit it, there’s his sexual pulses’ demon behind him and he pushes him… But also in an aesthetic aspect because I think that it’s a very aesthetic artwork! He did an incredible job, and I am an absolute fan of this one!

At the beginning, Emannuel you told me that music is a collaborative work, but you brings the basis.
Julien: It’s the opposite, there is Emmanuel’s basis because he writes the bigger part of the music, then it’s collaborative.
Emmanuel: I manage to write all instruments yeah, and then we do some changes.
So with this new line-up, did you have the impression that the band did a huge step forward, compared to what could happen some years ago?
Emmanuel: Firstly it’s a totally different way of working.
Julien: With this line-up, it’s the first time that we have to compose with internet contacts. Before with Benighted we were composing during rehearsals. Together in a room, we were writing and composing this way… Since 2014…
Emmanuel: It’s not affordable anymore. We live far from each other, so we had to find another solution.
Julien: We had to pick someone to take control of the situation, a composition director on whom everybody can take action, so Emmanuel took this role. I don’t want to suck his balls but…
Emmanuel: Come on, just a bit! (laughs)
Julien: He’s doing it very well! He knew how to capture what composed Benighted’s essence when he enters the band, but he also integrates many things to broaden the music! And we never wrote such intense and interesting tracks, I mean it always happens something, you wonder what it is, and where does it come from!
Emmanuel: It wasn’t easy! I simply try to inlay my influences… At the beginning I’m not really into Grindcore… I’m more, Extreme Metal related of course, into Old School Death Metal or Black Metal. And I added into Necrobreed some Swedish Old School Death Metal patterns from the nineties. Into some riffs you can hear this. Some Black Metal sounds too are added. I obviously knew Benighted as a listener back in time, and I was like “It’s too bad, it miss this part!”. In my mind, and it’s purely subjective, I thought it was too cheerful. I was like “fuck, it needs something to destroy it all!”
Julien: I’m about to slap him right now… (laughs)
Emmanuel: But why? The band’s imagery turns around gloomy topics, psychiatry, Julien’s passion… We cannot settle for bouncing rhythms! We have to add some blackness to this style, and that’s what I tried to add.
Julien: I agree, since Necrobreed there’s a more important part of darkness.
Emmanuel: I tried to add Black Metal riffs. Only from time to time, it’s not a Black Metal band now! (laughs)
Julien: Even in samples we add, we go now into dark and oppressive stuff, that reminds horror movies!
Emmanuel: I’m also a huge horror movie fan, so I tried to bring all those influences, without erasing what was already existing for the band.
Julien: And I totally find myself in this universe, because it totally answers to the concept’s blackness I write. It perfectly matches because you have all those auditive horror movies in mind, and it makes you feel it!

So we also have a bonus track, that is a Slipknot cover, which is a bit like the opposite of your usual style…
Emmanuel: Hell yeah… (laughs)
So… why?
Julien: At first sight it can be surprising but… you think “Oh they covered Slipknot… that’s so commercial!”
Emmanuel: It’s kind of provocation because, mainly in Extreme Metal music and for our fans, people are not Slipknot fans. So when they see it they will say “that’s crap, they’re traitors, they cover Slipknot!”. But the song we chose is not a famous one, it’s a bonus track from their very first album, and it’s one of Slipknot’s most violent one!
Julien: That’s right!
Emmanuel: If you just listen to the instrumental part, without Corey Taylor’s voice, it’s nearly Grindcore stuff! So we decided to make it our own way, tune a bit lower, with Julien’s voice and more blast beat… and that will be a fucking Grindcore song! So all those who knock our Slipknot cover then still listen to it…
Will be knocked out by the sound!
Emmanuel: Exactly! They will be disappointed!
Julien: That’s it! They will expect some People=Shit!, which is a commercial one, but finally they don’t even know the song! But we followed it from beginning to end! Because on the original song, the sound engineer says “Give me a scream Corey!”, and he starts to shout! So Kohle (Kristian Kohle, Kohlekeller Studio’s owner) who says “Give me a bree Julien!” (laughs)!
Emmanuel: Obviously, we begin with a pig squeal, so we appropriate it! Also why Slipknot… Because now we force ourselves when we pick songs to cover to get out of Death Metal. We will not cover Cannibal Corpse or Morbid Angel. Actually, I think that what convinced me was… I wasn’t even in Benighted, I entered the band right after, but it’s this Rammstein cover! I was like “They have an ability to rape songs! We need to do this again!”
Julien: What you said is just beautiful! (laughs)
Emmanuel: I was so disgusted I wasn’t part of this, because they perfectly raped it!
Julien laughed a lot
It’s funny because I didn’t think that one day I would hear “they perfectly raped it”… (laughs)
Julien: It doesn’t fit together right? It’s a great oxymoron!
Emmanuel: So I was like “let’s do the same thing.”. Well the song was basically violent, but it’s more about the image that we have about the band… I think that it’s great to go into styles that aren’t ours and to appropriate them, to “rape” them as I said (laughs).
Julien: It’s the polite version! I don’t rape, I appropriate! (laughs)
Emmanuel: We were a bit in a hurry for this album’s recording, that was done in very few time. At the beginning, I was looking for some eighties Glam Metal to smash! But we were taken short by deadlines.
Julien: And we didn’t have the good idea. Sometimes you have an idea that comes to your mind, and you know it’s the one you’re looking for.
Emmanuel: We didn’t have all those elements, and above all we didn’t have enough time, do Slipknot was picked. But it could have been a Bon Jovi song, but we didn’t have enough time. I would have really love to transform Glam Metal into Grindcore! Maybe on the next album… (laughs). I keep this in mind!

Julien Truchan & Emmanuel Dalle au Hellfest 2018
Galerie du Hellfest 2018

Recently, you played a lot outside of France, due to tours with Aborted and Cryptopsy in Europe and USA, just to mention a few. After this, there was festivals, more festivals announcements abroad… Do you think that the band is getting more known abroad too?
Julien: We’re lucky enough to be already renown abroad since a lot of time. We were highly awaited on the American territory, but we only could have a real tour last year. And we saw how awaited we were! In 2020 we do a lot of shows in Europe, and for 2021 we will really focus on the United States because there’s a real request for us from this side of the world.
Emmanuel: We had great feedback, that was cool for a first time, especially because we were told that a USA experience is a very hard time… Unwelcoming…
We often hear that yeah.
Julien: We came here thinking that we will handle everything by ourselves, but it was finally great.
Emmanuel: We were so prepared psychologically and physically, but in the end everything was alright. It wasn’t harder than in Europe!

So in two months you will tour for Hellfest, do you have some words about Olympia show?
Emmanuel: We were like “What the fuck?” when we learned it!
Julien: How does a twenty years old band that started in a garage doing some pig noises can play at the Olympia twenty years after?
Emmanuel: As I said during a previous interview, Olympia is Anne Roumanoff (a famous french humorist, ED), Calogero? So there will be Benighted too! (laughs)

What do you think about Death/Grind scene in France?
Emmanuel: I live in my bunker, so I couldn’t say (laughs)!
Julien: Death/Grind scene… If you say Grindcore – France, I immediately think about Inhumate and Blockheads that are Grind pioneers in France.
Emmanuel: Yeah, that’s it, they are Grind daddies! There’s not a lot of bands that are highlighted now…
Julien: But those ones are safe bet! On stage or on records, it’s a fucking huge! Those guys have an integrity that I admire. They are self-made bands, they never waited for labels or anything to help them for any single thing, and that’s what made them what they are.
Emmanuel: Actually that’s true!
Julien: In my opinion they deserve credit for that!
Emmanuel: And they are great people.
Julien: Sure! They’re really great people.
Emmanuel: When they’re on stage… It’s a big fight! You get out of the show, you’re injured! Well Blockheads, that’s mainly the singer that hurts you (laughs).
Julien: (laughs) Yeah, a bit! Those two bands are really important for the french scene, and they’re two bands we musically and humanly love.
Emmanuel: But I’m not really updated of what is going on nowadays.
Julien: Me neither.
Usually, new bands focus on more recent styles like Slam Death.
Emmanuel: Yeah, that’s why I was talking about Grindcore, it’s getting lost unfortunately.

Now we finished serious questions, let’s do some funny ones! You once said during an interview at 70000 Tons of Metal that you played barefoot because you could feel the music’s vibes.
Julien: That’s right!
But in Paris when you jumped on stage with Aborted, you had shoes! Why?
Julien: That’s just to bother Sven (Sven de Caluwé, Aborted’s singer)! Nothing more than this! Because Sven always says “Julien is barefoot! Necrofeet!”, so this time he called me to get on stage with them, and I had shoes… he couldn’t say anything!

Can you tell us your best and your worst memory about this tour in Europe with Aborted?
Julien: The best one for me is Essen. When we did this joke to Aborted
Emmanuel: Oh fuck yeah!
Julien: We send Fack, our guitar player (Fabien “Fack” Desgardins) with a fake bald wig and my stage jacket. When Sven called me to do the guest appearance with them, I jumped on stage and we start Termination Redux by headbanging. So we’re headbanging, Sven doesn’t see me, I left the stage and Fack jumped instead of me with my stage outfit and this fake bald wig. He has the microphone in his hand. Sven bounces back, he sees Fack with the microphone and he was like “Will he really sing this?!” (laughs). But I am sitting on the side of the stage on the stairs and I do playback with Fack who tries to lip sync (laughs)!
Emmanuel: While doing Julien’s gimmicks on stage, that was amazing!
Julien: Yeah! This was totally awesome (laughs). Everybody was laughing except Ian (Ian Jekelis, Aborted’s guitar player) who was like “They will destroy the song, that’s not real!” (laughs).
Emmanuel: He wasn’t happy at all, he thought it was sabotage (laughs)!
Julien: It was so funny! I was on the stairs, there are some parts I couldn’t play because I was laughing so hard (laughs)!
Emmanuel: Who had this idea?
Julien: It was mine! We bought this bald wig, it was fantastic! For me it’s definitely the best tour memory!
Emmanuel: He wasn’t really confident about doing this! We nearly harassed him to be sure he will!
Julien: Yeah, we repeated it “You’ll do it right?” (laughs)
Emmanuel: “If you don’t, you’re fired!” (laughs), we nearly threatened him, but he finally did!
Julien: It was the best memory yeah… About the worst one…
Emmanuel: Nothing went wrong on this tour actually…
Julien: Clearly, I can’t find any! This tour was perfect!
Emmanuel: There was nothing negative we keep in mind…
Julien: I still have one! Well it’s not the worst one but… When you’re going to Poland as a Death Metal band… If there’s someone who come to you and says… We actually don’t do drugs, but there was an undercover policeman who tried to give us something for like a symbolic price or anything like that. We said that we were not interested, we don’t want to buy this. But we learned that they offer this to know if you’re a potential buyer, and when you leave the venue they stop you saying that someone saw you buying drugs, even if they don’t want to arrest you! It’s just to say “Well, give us what you earned tonight and let’s not talk about it anymore!”, that’s just for that.
Emmanuel: You really have to be dumb to buy something like this…
Julien: We already saw some (laughs)!
Emmanuel: That’s not really normal after all!
Julien: Yeah, but sometimes it could happen!

An imagination question now, Benighted is opener for a tour, and you choose the other bands!
Emmanuel: So we are the lowest on the bill on this tour…
Julien: Cattle Decapitation? Or is it too obvious?
Emmanuel: Yeah…
Julien: You said Anne Roumanoff, right? Oh sorry, we have to be serious (laughs)
Emmanuel: Well that’s not the same style, but I’m a huge At The Gates fan.
Julien: So Benighted, Cattle Decapitation, At The Gates, that would be cool, isn’t it?
Emmanuel: We would rather have different styles!
Julien: Fuck you’re annoying (laughs)!
Emmanuel: I’d like a more diversified tour yeah…
Julien: So let’s add some Black Metal between for diversity? Are you into Der Weg Einer Freiheit?
Emmanuel : Yes sure.
Julien : Well, so Benighted, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, At The Gates !
Emmanuel : It’s kinda strange…
Julien: They’re insane! I’m an absolute fan of Der Weg! They play such an emotional Black Metal…
Emmanuel: On stage they’re really great! And they doesn’t even look like Black Metal dudes!
I’m in!
Julien: That’s perfect! So it’s diversified, there’s something for everyone!

Last question, do you have some advices to give to bands that are starting out?
Emmanuel: Give up music. That sucks (laughs).
Julien: Advices…
Emmanuel: Don’t show off.
Julien: Indeed, don’t pretend to be what you’re not because you have a t-shirt with your name on it before having a CD (laughs).
Emmanuel: It often happens. I was shocked because usually it seems like opening bands are more self-satisfied of themselves than headlining bands!
Julien: The first advice is to be humble. With humbleness, everything can work in my opinion. Offer some serious stuff. Release an album in the first place, not an EP or a single. Then defend this album, even if it has to take five years, you defend this album, you tour as much as possible to earn credibility to the eyes of your audience. Even if you still open for… I don’t know, twenty different bands, if your music is cool, people will remind it! Two years after you play again in the same place, they will be like “I liked this band, let’s go to the show!”. That’s how it works, don’t be eager. If you’re eager, unless you have the only thing nobody already invented or if you’re ready to… well to show your ass more than the others… Well in this case it can work! You know, Butcher Babies that ended up on Hellfest’s Mainstage… One album and four boobs… Musical credibility is far behind!
Their arguments are not really musical, that’s a fact.
Julien: That’s it! So unless you have that point, you have to find something original!
Emmanuel: Unfortunately we’re not sheltered to this in the Metal scene, that’s a good proof.
Julien: That’s obvious! Metal audience is mainly composed of men, that enjoy sex… so let’s put a sexy girl… “Oh I love this band!” (laughs). They cannot name a single song from the band, but they can tell you the frontwoman’s measurements! It also works with this, that’s a wrong development.

So I don’t have any question left!
Julien: That’s cool yet! Thanks a lot!

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