Nov 3, 2012

Violent Insurrections: Interview with BARABBAS ...

And once again I must thank Sven of Doom Metal Front for I've that great doom act in one of his compilation (it was DMF 6: "Crossing the Alps")! These reverend brothers in Doom do amazing and crushing riffs as if they live through their music, France must be proud of her sons as we must know of their Gospel. The Gospel of Suffering, Hope and Salvation which sounds all over the world since 2011 when their first self-titled album has been release. Heed their call, repent yet do not fall on your knees! Because it would be uncomfortable to read this interview with Saint Stéphane, the man who plays guitars in Barabbas.

Hail to devotional congregation of Barabbas! Sorry yet I'd like to start with common question: what did drive you to gather under this name in 2007?
Hail Aleksey! Many thanks for giving us the opportunity to introduce Barabbas to the Russian doomsters. Back in 2007, the idea was just to play slow and heavy music for the sake of it. We had toyed with the idea for a long time and suddenly, the timing was just right. We didn't even think about releasing a demo or doing gigs, we just wanted to have a good time and maybe get a few tracks on a MySpace page. Guess Ambition is not our greatest sin…The name "Barabbas" comes straight from the Richard Fleischer movie, with Anthony Quinn staring as Barabbas, the thief sentenced to death that the crowd chose to free instead of Jesus. The movie depicts how Barabbas, unable to understand why he was released instead of "the son of God", slowly change his ways and begins a painful quest for redemption (don't expect no happy end : ). We thought it was a great doom theme :everyone, even with no particular religious belief, can relate to this idea of trying to find your way in what could be sometimes perceived as a meaningless existence.

Yes, your band wears the name of criminal who suffered with Christ at Golgotha, each of band's members have a title "saint" before real name. Are you so pious indeed or is it kind of mockery over institute of church?

The "Good vs Evil" imagery is strongly tied to the doom genre, so using it is a way to pay tribute to the Great Old Ones (Black Sabbath, Cathedral, Saint-Vitus, Trouble…) who inspired us. Besides, a name like "Barabbas" calls for this kind of references. In fact, we're neither pro nor anti religion. We are not into blasphemy and we do not preach. We're using religious references as images, metaphors, kinda like when Ronnie James Dio sang about fire, darkness and rainbows. But we do believe in the power of Music. It can lift up your mind, make you feel stronger, heal your soul, unite people… Music is a spiritual force (Huuu... I think I'm beginning to sound like an old hippie), hence the idea of worshiping it through our Sonic Church of the Holy Redeemer Riff (which, to be true, is a rip-off of Jimi Hendrix's concept of Electric Church). Regarding our "saint" names, it's just self irony: "saint" is synonymous with utter perfection and we're far from perfect, as musicians (and as humans, I'm afraid).

Yet "it doesn't hurt - it doesn't count" as one literary personage told about redemption scourging and purging lost souls in some forsaken planet. Your music is heavy, it's a fact, do you see this purification as a process of intensive catharsis or is it just a smooth release for you?

"Intensive catharsis" would be overstated, we're far from experiencing that kind of spiritual redemption or enlightenment during our rehearsals. But music sure has cathartic virtues, as every mean of expression. Of course, there's this kind of physical release you reach when you bang the drums or you shout your lungs out at the microphone. But music also allows you to turn all your bad feelings into something creative. And bringing positive out of negative is always good for the mind, it's kind of bringing light out of darkness, order out of chaos. Let the light prevail ! : ). And besides, there's also the magical power of distortion and low frequencies that set your brainwaves right!

My congratulations - your album "Barabbas" has an excellent art-work, please give few hints for those who're uncommon with microprocessor technologies - how is it connected with your songs?

Glad you dig the artwork ! "Redemption through headbanging" is the credo of our Sonic Church. This symbol of electrical power sums up our "theology": turn the amps louder, let's crank it up and let music purify your mind and soul, wash your troubles away and take you "elsewhere" !

It seems as a good credo :-). What are your main requirements to band's sound? Barabbas sounds bloody heavy, sometimes dirty, you have well-tuned groovy bass - what else is important for you in your songs and how did you embody it in your first full-length?

No special technical requirements, really : as long as we got big amplifiers and distortion pedals, we're happy ! The most important for us is to preserve the right balance in terms of composition : we want to keep it slow, heavy and gloom but at the same time, we want to keep it melodic. We really try to write songs, not just riffs, with verses leading to chorus you can sing along to, and we hope our demo is an accurate testimony of what we're trying to do. Granted, we don't reinvent the wheel, we're rather old school, that's the way we want to stay and we hope the demo is true to our intentions. Don't expect a drone album from us !

Songs of Barabbas have French lyrics, it's good for me because I like and respect bands that are able to combine great music and texts in their natural language. But after all I'm interesting that do they sing about? Therefore I would like to ask you to comment on the lyrics of "Barabbas" songa.

Singing in French seems indeed natural for us. Some people like it, because there aren't many French doom bands singing in their native language, but other people find it a bit old fashioned (back in the 80's, French metal bands did sing mostly in French). What is really funny is that sometimes, French listeners ask us why we sing in French... But in the end, it's not a question of language but a matter of emotion. Maybe you know this great French band called Magma: they sing in their own personal language they invented ("Kobaïen"), but you don't need to understand what they sing to feel all the power and emotions of their music. The song "Barabbas" is, of course, inspired by the movie. It depicts the tragic fate of Barabbas and ends with the idea that, in a way, we're all Barabbas because we all struggle to find our path in this world.

No, I've never heard of Magma, yet I know Stangala who sing in Breton language! Stephane, what's about other songs from the album? What are they about?

"Horizon Golgotha" is about confronting the tragic consequences of your actions. The song depicts the crucifixion of Jesus, from the moment he is taken to the cross until his last breath, The lyrics focus on the absolute loneliness of a man facing death, his despair, his faith destroyed.
In "Réssuscité", it's a bitter Jesus that comes back from the dead. The song adopts his point of you: "You killed me just because I preached love? Well, next time, Mister, I won't turn the other cheek!". You can also take the song on a more personal level, as in the "Resurrection" song by Rob Halford: you've been down in the hole, you've lost your friends, your self respect, your faith in yourself, everybody says you're out, finished and suddenly, you come back in style !"Quatre Cavaliers" deals with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse unleashing their plagues on Earth and destroying mankind. Underneath is the idea that, no matter how rich or powerful you are, all your power and possessions won't mean nothing when Death will call you. So the lyrics have a kind of "memento mori" vibe to them: "Remember you're a mere mortal". The track "La question de Pilate" is a sample from the movie "Barabbas" enhanced by some synths works from Saint-Jérôme, our bass player. The dialogues come from the scene where Ponce Pilate asks the crowd if he should free Jesus or Barabbas (we all know the name of the winner, don't we ?). That's a way to show the listeners "where we come from". We also use this track as an intro when we hit the stage.

What kind of your personal features are revealed through the band?

Every creation being a reflection of its creator, there's certainly a fair amount of ourselves in Barabbas, even though we can't tell precisely "who brings what" to the table. Guess you'll have to ask our girlfriends... Or our mums!

Hah, are they proud with their sons bringing tunes of doom all over the world?

I don't think they even suspect the word "doom" applies to a musical genre. And they probably wouldn't call what we play "music"! For me, my parents are into classical music. Only music I listened to when a kid and I did like it. It trained my ears. Then, one day, I was exposed to "We will rock you" by Queen and my life changed : ) But I still enjoy some classical music so, thanx for the discovery Ma and Pa!

You did release your first (and only) album by yourself - without any labels. Can you describe this process? How much time, efforts and money did you spend onto it?

Jérôme, our bass player, is our Wizard of Sound. He has recorded and produced the whole demo and we think he really did a great job. It's really hard to estimate the time spent because we recorded the album through short sessions over a 5 months period. Having free access to recording facilities, we were able to concentrate the money on the artwork and the pressing. The demo was self released, we hope to find a label for our future album. If Russian labels are interested, they're welcome!

You released "Barabbas" a year ago, what do you do now? Did you get enough positive feedback from world doom community to start working over new songs?

We are currently working on a new batch of songs. We'd like to release an album before the end of 2013 (which will prove difficult if the world is going to end in 2012 : ). We indeed get some good reviews from magazines (Metallian), websites and compilations (Doommantia, Temple of Perdition, Doom Metal Front Zine...), radios (Toby Mearing Radio Show, etc.)... PsycheDOOMelic records has been kind enough to add our cd to its webstore, And we also did some cool gigs with great bands like The Wounded Kings or the French masters of Huata and The Bottle Doom Lazy Band. Oddly enough, the only rather bad review was on a French webzine. As the saying goes, "No man is a prophet in his own country".

Thanks for a hint, I see that I must check Huata! Well, and Bottle Doom Lazy Band too because if I do not err they promised new songs in nearby future. But what about you? Do you expect some special releases or events in this year?

I really dig Cathedral (too bad they disbanded, because sharing a stage with them was one of our secret dreams) so I hope we'll soon see the release of that posthumous album Lee Dorian spoke about when "The guessing game" was released. A new Black Sabbath album would be cool too, but I don't set my expectations too high on this one, just wait and see, (after all Saint-Vitus made a winning come back with their last offering). Of course, I'll be happy to listen to the next albums from Orchid, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats or Evangelist to name a few but my love of the genre comes from the Great Old Ones so their records have always that something "extra" for me (I should be careful, nostalgia is the first step to aging : )

What do people usually tell you after listening your songs?

It's always hit or miss: it's either "Hey, great!" or "Hu, boring !". But it's often the case with "non consensual" music. Some people think we are more doom than stoner and we indeed have a few songs which could be labelled that way. No one ever told us we were original (but as I wrote above, it was not our plan) but on the other hand, no one ever told us we did sound like this band or that band, so I guess our honor is safe : )

You live in Combs-la-Ville, not far away from Paris; some people still think of it as of capital of fashion, like it's fantastic city which is full of romantic shit and etc. I've heard about suburbans where only immigrants dwell, the big city which is bloody expansive to live and I see that insane propaganda of tolerance on zombie-box. What can you say? Is it comfortable for you to live where you do?

We're not that close to Paris (around 40 kms) so we're kind of preserved from the troubles of Babylon. Our region has kept a strong "country" vibe, it's still quite rural: wheat and corn fields, farms, forests, small villages… You can easily forget the Dark Side of Modern Times ! Besides, everything we see on TV isn't always 100% true. Media sometimes tend to emphasize problems just to get more audience.

Then I'm glad for you, Stephane! Thanks for you time man and send my best wishes to you comrades at arms from Barabbas, don't forget to let us know when new album will be ready. Good luck!

Thanks again to you, Comrade Aleksey, for opening your columns to the Sonic Gospel of Barabbas. Salute to all Russian doomsters and metalheads, hope some of you will join us in the celebration of the Holy Redeemer Riff! Also don't forget to check all those cool French doom and stoners band: the aforementioned Huata, Bottle Doom Lazy Band and Stangala but also Hangman's Chair, Children of Doom, Northwinds, Zardoz, Ataraxie, Wheelfall and all those I forget. And as Mr Spock said, "Live long and prosper". Peace!

Barabbas "Barabbas": HERE
Barabbas | Facebook
Barabbas | Myspace

Interview by Aleks Evdokimov
Photos by Karine Sohier

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