PENUMBRA

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TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE

This interview with the bass player Agone from the French gothic metal band Penumbra was done through e-mail in August 2002.

Hello, how are you doing?
Well I'm fine, thanks!

Your second album "The Last Bewitchment" has been available in the stores for a while now, what has the response been like?
The echoes we have are really good now, regarding the reviews in the press, the advice of the fans through emails or after the gigs, and the sales that are going very well.

It took you almost three years to complete the new album, how come it took so long? Are you happy with the outcome?
There are several reasons for this length between Emanate and our last album, "The last Bewitchment": the first reason is the conflict we had with our former label, Last Episode, that betrayed us, so we were a little bit disgusted by the music's business. We decided to continue anyway but we had to complete our line-up, as several members left us. Once the line-up had been completed, we finished the writing of the album (it took us almost one year), recorded a 3 title demo for the labels, and found our new label, Season of Mist, of which we are completly satisfied; then you add the recording of the album, the post-production and the planning of the release and three years are passed...

What are the biggest differences between "The Last Bewitchment" and your debut "Emanate"?
I think that the main difference is a bigger maturity, which lead us to a wealthier orchestration and composition; we learnt also new technics for recording, and have been given better means for doing what we wanted to big Season of Mist. The Last Bewitchment is also a concept-album, what gives a bigger entity to this album.

By using both growling male and clean female vocals you will probably always be compared to the early Norwegian bands of the genre but where do you see yourselves standing musically?
We can't tell we haven't been influenced by some bands on the metal scene, but we tried to express ourselves first of all, without limits of style or limits of instruments. Voices we use are there to endeavour the different characters and emotions expressed by the actors of The Last Bewitchment. We also have classical influences, and each member of Penumbra has his own preferences and tastes, from Rammstein to Therion, from Delalande to Vivaldi...

Being seven members in a band must be quite difficult sometimes, are there often seven different opinions when you write new material?
What could be a backdraw became a strenght for us: we learnt to compose all together, and we complete quite well each other. Some songs are mainly composed by 2 or three members, some others songs by another "crew" in the band, etc..., and once the songs are created, we arrange them in rehersals or in our home studios. Of course, sometimes we have different opinions but we always manage to agree on what seems to be the best solution.

You have had a lot of line-up changes during the last year and a half, what does the current line-up look like? Do you think you have found a stable line-up now?
We think we've found the good line-up: Jarlaath (oboe and main vocals), Dorian (guitars), Neo (guitars) and Zoltan (keyboards) are the roots of the band. I (Agone / Bass guitar and backing vocals) arrived a year and a half ago and Garlic (drums) and Kyrsten (soprano) arrived six months ago, completing our full line-up. Through the gigs we did with Within Temptation in march, through our empathy and through the enthusiasm of the public, we are convinced that this line-up is the most efficient that Penumbra ever had.

What kind of musical background do the current band members have, have you been involved with any other bands or musical projects before Penumbra?
Almost all the members of Penumbra belonged to other musical formations before Penumbra. Some members of Penumbra are also currently in other bands, and some members have common projects. I will quote a few names: Catharsis, Everest, Lux Incerta, Sky Zoo...

Do you know what the former members David, Scyllia, Medusa, Hekchen and Aldric has been doing since they left the band?
We know that most of them kept playing in other bands, we kept good relationships with them.

Why don't you use your real names in the band? Are you afraid that people will associate you as persons with Penumbra?
No, the real point is that when we enter in the world of Penumbra, we become different characters so we embody the characters of this musical universe through our names, and also through our clothes, tatoos, roles... and we are proud to play in Penumbra, we don't hide it: I think it's a duty for us to be real musical characters for the public and not just guys who play music without any implication.

The new album was recorded together with Terje Refsnes, what was it like working with him at Sound Suite?
It was a real pleasure for us : he is a very kind and very professional person, it was really a great experience, and he opened our musical possibilities in a way. We are really happy of the result, he put his talent at the service of our ideas and we thank him for this.

What do you think of other bands who have recorded there such as Trail Of Tears and Tristania? Was this why you chose this studio for your own recording?
Trail of Tears and Tristania both have, on a technical point of view, a good sound that fits with their music; their style is not very far from ours even if we all have our own personality. We didn't chose to record with Terje, our label gave us this possibility and we jumped on it! As I told you it was really a very good experience for us!

You had some fifteen guest musicians appearing on the album, how did you get in touch with them and who are they?
We have many contacts in the classical music, as several members come from this universe. That's how we managed to find all the people we were looking for. The are all friends of friends so it was a pleasure to record with them!

Classical influences are apparently very important to you, what do you think of bands like Therion and Haggard who have taken the concept even further? Is this where Penumbra is going in the future?
For now, it is not our goal: we use classical instruments when we think the song needs it, but we could very well write a song with just two guitars and a voice, for us it's just a matter of need. But with classical instruments, we can give another dimension to our music so we use them very frequently. We don't know how far we will go with that, we don't put any limit in a way or another...

In February and March you did a couple of small tours in Holland and France together with Dying Tears, We The Gods and Within Temptation, what was that like? How do you feel about playing live?
We love to tour with other bands and to play live! It's a dream for any novice musician and we have the luck to make it come true: the bands we played with are all really cool, and all the places where we played were always great, in France and in Netherlands: the audiences were great and we shared a lot of good moments with our friend bands and with the people who came to our gigs. Penumbra come to life in live, it's another dimension and all the people who saw us live would tell you that: it's our universe.

Earlier on you have played festivals like Wave Gotik Treffen and Z7, do you like playing gothic festivals more than metal festivals? If so, then why?
You know, we are between Gothic and Metal world so we enjoy playing in both festivals. All crowds are different and it's always a challenge to bewitch them ;-). Our music is made of these influences among all the others, so we are at ease in both situations!

Do you know where in the world you have most of your fans? Who do you think your music will appeal to?
I think that most of our fans come from Netherlands (we love Netherlands!) and Germany, where Emanate sold more than 3000 copies. These countries, like Scandinavians, have a real metal culture that we don't really have in France. As I told you, our music appeals to all people who like gothic, dark, classical and metal sounds. And over that, we hope that our melodis may go further than these concepts...

What are your top five albums of all time?
Well I will speak for myself, I would say Type O Negative "October Rust", Katatonia "Discouraged ones", My Dying Bride "The Angel...", Iron maiden "Seventh Son...", Paradise Lost "Draconian Times". But it's so hard, there are so many excellent albums, it depends on my mood...

What plans and goals do you have for the nearest future?
First of all, we want to play live the more we can, all over Europe (and even further) if possible, why not to Sweden? We like to be on tour, really... Then we will continue the writing of our third album, and go on rehearsal as much as possible.

Now to my very own right or wrong section. You are just going to tell us whether you think the following acts would be right or wrong:

a) If someone killed Hitler prior to his mass murder campaigns.
We don't speak about politics, we only care about music... [Editor's comment: Isn't this a matter of ethics rather than politics...?]

b) To burn down a church because it's "evil".
It's a pity, I like organs and the reverb in the churchs ;-)

c) To burn down a church because it represents oppression.
Same answer

d) Sado-masochism.
Hey you do what you want with your body...

e) Death penalty.
For the pedophils...

f) To lie if it will be of benefit to yourself.
It's not in my philosophy!

g) Censorship.
Sucks.

h) Religion.
Because people fear death and need to find an explanation to their presence on earth... I am agnostic.

i) Communism.
We don't care about politics. Facts are blatant enough...

Any final words for your fans?
We hope to see you on tour as soon as possible, and wish that you will feel the same emotions listening to The Last Bewitchment than those who felt creating it! And thanks for your support, we play for you!


Links of interest:

Penumbra
Season Of Mist