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Hantaoma interview (04/2006)

With: Patrice Roques [Vocals, guitars, folk instruments]
Conducted by: Jeff
Published: 16.04.2006

- Hello Patrice!!! A lot of people already know Stille Volk, but here we are today in order to talk about Hantaoma. Can you please introduce the band and the musicians? (where you come from, the bands you've played in - I think you even told me about some Metal Storm thing ;-) )

Adiu!! The concept behind Hantaoma goes as far back as 1997. In the meantime between the first two albums of Stille Volk, I had thought about forming a band which would mix metal and traditional music. But this project was eventually only limited to some fragments of songs. In 2004, Lafforgue and I took advantage of a blank year with Stille Volk and decided to try it again, with a repertoire of both traditional Occitan songs adapted in a metal way and more personal works sung in Occitan. Holy Records showed great interest in this project and last year, after we've sent them a demo, they agreed on signing us. Lafforgue and I share the guitar playing, the traditional instruments and the clean vocals. Arixon handles the vocals while Deinos is our bass player and Thomas our drummer.
About the musical background of our members, well let me say it is quite huge. My first band was indeed called Metal Storm and has been alive from 1985 to 1989: we used to play some heavy speed thrash in the vein of Helloween, Toxik, Heathen and stuff. Then I have played from 1989 to 1991 in the thrash/death band Brain Death, which was quite renowned back then (2 demos and one track on the compilation "Total Virulence"). After that, with Metal Storm's drummer Romu and Brain Death's ex-singer Ricou, we formed Eviternity, a band that has gone from techno death to neo-classical black death between 1991 and 1998: we have recorded 3 demos. We've finally founded Stille Volk in 1994 and the band is still active today.
Lafforgue has been in Susscrofa (pagan Black) from 1991 to 1995, in Gréguena from 1995 to 1998 and is a member of Stille Volk.
Arixon has played with Anaphilaxy (brutal death) from 1990 to 1992 (not so sure about the dates anymore) then with Tanahauzer (death) and Eviternity in 1995.
Deinos has been the singer for Golem (death) from 1990 to 1993 and the guitarist in Tanahauzer, and he founded Hypocras (brutal death) in which he's still playing.
Finally, Thomas was involved in many local bands and has his own studio ( where we've partly recorded the album.

- Where did you get the idea to combine Folk and Metal? Had you thought about that long ago? (If I'm not mistaken you already did something similar last year with Misanthrope on the track "Conte Fantasmagorique")

As I told you already, the idea behind this project is pretty old. For example Susscrofa as of 1991 had lyrics in Occitan and we had included acoustic instruments in Eviternity. Since we weren't doing anything with Stille Volk last year, we decided to play metal again. About that song with Misanthrope, they asked us to record folk elements on one of their tracks, and since we could not play with Stille Volk at the Holy Party, they kindly invited us to play this song. But this has nothing to do with hantaoma at all: all our songs had already been written at this moment.

- Lets' talk about "Malombra", your first album. Can you tell me what "Malombra and Hantaoma (album title and band name) mean?

The word Hantaoma could be translated with "ghost', even though the real word is "fantaoma". But "hantaomas" are much more than simple ghosts: they are more fantastic beings like night fears, spirits of the nature, genies of the mountain that were feared by villagers. And Malombra actually is one of these fears that terrified so much villagers of the ancient times. It is the evil shadow that penetrates the consciences. It is an ancient fear, a reminiscence of the fallen genies of the mountain and nature. They belong to the Olympus-like hall of fame people imagined in the past.

- I think I have seen a lot of fairly enthusiastic reviews in France and abroad for your album. How do you welcome this positive feedback? Does it surprise you?

You're right, all the reviews I've read so far are very good. I am indeed delighted with this favourable reception. It's an excellent surprise for us given that we really did not know how the audience would react, in particular to the fact that the lyrics are all in Occitan. That's great, it actually shows that metalheads are not so narrow-minded.

- What are the lyrics about? When I read them, I think I understood they deal with Pyrenean legends and tales…

The lyrics generally deal with the theme of the imaginary: there are indeed legends, myths, characters of the Pyrenean pantheon (Vent Follet, Malombra, Hantaoma, Flama) and some of them evoke the relationship between men and the natural environment of the mountain (Maluros, Negra Sason…).

- Here's the ritual question: why did you write in Occitan? Did you want to pass on a message when you used this language? (like 'don't forget it' or 'discover it')

Using Occitan only is part of the approach of the band. We wanted to use this language because of its musical side and that allowed us to revive ancient texts that deserved to be known. A lot of poets say it's the magic of the words that is at work. We also realized that Occitan offers infinite possibilities since local adaptations of it exist in almost every valley (without talking of the Languedocian, Gascon and Provencal languages). Therefore there are differences in the pronunciation according to the geographic area where the texts originate from. that gives a lot of diversity to the musicality of the songs.
We don't have any message to pass on. Our texts are only imaginary, there is no claim concerning our cultural identity for example. We are obviously are against the disappearance of this language because it(s a part of our heritage, but that's all.

- I think you wrote a book about Occitany (or maybe it is Patrick, I don't remember). Are you really committed to defending the Occitan language? Is it simply on a cultural level or does it go beyond that (politics, etc…)?

Indeed, I wrote a book about the demonizing of witchcraft and popular beliefs in the Central Pyrenees, but it's a History book. I deal with a historical process that concerns the history of mentalities. It is not a book about Occitany but about an area that belongs to what we call Occitany. Every area in the world has its specific cultural characteristics, but I am against any withdrawal in a cultural niche and also against nationalist reflexes that we seem more and more often, even within metal.

- Given its last releases and its great popular support, folk metal is in my opinion tomorrow's metal, the upcoming trend. What do you think of these bands such as Magö De Oz, Korpiklaani, Cruachan, Orphaned Land who use folk instruments, just like you do?

I don't know if folk will be the new trend because if you stick to the codes of the genre (if there are any codes at all), using instruments such as bagpipes, violins or harps require some musicianship qualities unless you hire people from outside. In my opinion, a band that uses keyboards to replace those instruments is not a folk band. I like most of these bands although I don't think Mägo De Oz are a folk metal band but a mere metal band. That doesn't mean they're not talented of course. I think that music-wise folk metal follows particular musicological rules.

- I guess you've had this question before, but have you planned to play live with Hantaoma?

We are supposed to rehearse as of September with a third guitarist. That should allow Lafforgue and I to focus on acoustic instruments. We've not tried yet and since we don't want a simple metal show, we are going to try to find out what our tracks can sound like in a live environment. If it eventually does not work, we won't do any shows, but I think the outcome should be interesting.

- What about Stille Volk? Will we have a new album soon?

We've just done a show in Spain, as a support for Qntal. The new album's concept is already almost written. We still need to work on the music. Therefore it won't be out this year (interview done in 2005). However, Holy Records may re-release our first album Hantaoma (haha!) with our 1995 demo and maybe 2 live cd-rom tracks as bonuses. But this is all still a project due to copyright issues.

- About Hantaoma, do you think you'll release other albums? Or is it just a side-project of Still Volk?

We'll record at least another album. It is not a side-project, but a real band. We just need time to tae care of the bands at the same time, and that is not easy.

- What are the bands that influenced you? What do you listen to at the moment?

There's a truckload of bands that inspired me since I listen to music. Basically, here are the major bands from the genres I like in metal: Maiden, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, the first Manowar albums , My Dying Bride, Candlemass, Helloween (old), Metallica, Slayer, Watchtower, Skyclad, Venom, Living Death, Morbid Angel, Korova, Toxik, Hallows Eve, Holy Moses, Sabbat, Destruction, Kreator, Storm, Bathory, Death, Obituary, Gorguts, At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, Celtic Frost and thousands of others...
At the moment, the only new albums I've listened to are the last Primordial, Candlemass, Finntroll, Korpiklaani... I think that today's music has started to eat its own tail, that's why I like listening to old bands rather than to a new clone.

- Since I am a Gascon myself, I'd really like to help our readers (mostly not French) what the Pyrenees and Occitany are… But I assume you'll do that better than me, so before we end this interview, Id' like you to do something for them… Tell them a tale, explain to them what Occitany is, tell them whatever you want (you can even talk in Occitan if you want) but make them want to discover our "païs"…

A little legend of the Haute Bigorre, an area in the centre of the Pyrenees - it should avoid long speeches and it gives a meaning to a lot of things: I am not here to defend any cultural identity but to tell stories, that's what we are!

Mulat Barbe, a giant of the Haute Bigorre, lived in the upper areas of the mountain. According to the legend, he raised herds and also cultivated wheat, which was then unknown in the plain. One morning, Mulat Barbe discovered that the mountain is covered in a white and cold powder, snow, a new element that no one had known before. The patriach then gathered his sons and said "Christiandat arrenhe" or "Christendom has come"
He then asked his sons to kill him and to bury him under stones. According to other versions, Mulat Barbe was blind, an ancient symbol of wisdom, and could recognize that the appearance of snow was the sign that "new times had come".

- The interview has now come to an end, but I am really proud of having such bands as Hantaoma and Stille Volk that come from my area. Good luck for the future, I hope to see you around in Toulouse or somewhere else.
As we say here, adishatz é porta plan (et que le cul te pèle )(Note of Jeff: that's just impossible to translate it lol ;o) )

Same to you man. Mercé plan per l'interview.

Patrice Roques

Many thx again to Patrice and Hantaoma, sorry for the long delay guys (and cheerz to DSM for the translation...)


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