Neptunian Maximalism interview (09/2020)
|Conducted by:||Apothecary (e-mail)|
When I first stumbled upon Neptunian Maximalism's Éons debut on the I, Voidhanger Bandcamp back in early May, I knew I was in for something intense. The album hadn't even been released in full yet, but just judging by the magnificent artwork depicting a wrathful Buddha as well as the imposing track list and list of personnel, my gut told me something highly potent and multidimensional lurked within. This initial hypothesis proved correct when I got ahold of a promo for Éons a few weeks later, subsequently being floored by Neptunian Maximalism's peculiar but irresistible fusion of drone doom, jazz, folk, and psychedelia. While not "metal" by the standard definition, the music of Éons nevertheless gave off a distinct feeling of gravity and immersion akin to metal, bearing shades of similarity to favorites of mine such as Sunn O))), Pylar, and Dark Buddha Rising while somehow not sounding overly close to either.
Thoroughly intrigued by Éons, I managed to track down Guillaume Cazalet (AKA "CZLT"), the Belgian multi instrumentalist and unofficial mastermind behind Neptunian Maximalism, for an enlightening conversation regarding the album's thematic roots and overall creative inspiration behind it.
Apothecary: Hello and thank you for taking the time for this interview. I've been eager to dissect the music and inspiration behind Neptunian Maximalism and your role therein for some time now. Let's begin!
The sound of Neptunian Maximalism is, well… pretty damn massive. It's very hard to believe that, with as many stylistic areas as your ensemble draws upon, it just emerged out of thin air, or didn't have roots in prior bands and material. How did you really get this colossal, orchestra-like project started?
CZLT: Well, at the beginning it's just free improvised music. I met Jean Jacques (Sax) in 2018 when I joined his improvisation lab (Lab'OMFI> One Moment, Free Improv). In March 2018 I organized a residency at HS63 with Jean Jacques on baritone sax, my cousin Pierre Arese (AKSU), and Sebastien Schmit (K-Branding), both on drums. We recorded everything in 2 consecutive days with a concert on the 3rd day.
Then I returned with the tracks that I arranged during 3 intensive months, adding vocals, bass lines or guitar, percussion, sitar, and flute. Sebastien came to pose some high vocals and some parts of gongs, and Jean Jacques came to record his fabulous soprano sax track on what constituted our first EP.
The rest gave birth to the Éons trilogy.
So in short, we each have our respective influences, but musical improvisation makes it more the spirits that express themselves through us than a conscious creation of the ego.
Apothecary: Does the songwriting typically proceed outward from one person or a couple of people, or is it truly a group effort?
CZLT: It is a group effort, then a coagulating vision on my part, influenced among other things by the lessons and theory of Jean Jacques. Now our process has evolved into other collective experiences. There are currently 9 of us performing 2 of the studio songs, so I have to orchestrate / coordinate the different members in order to pursue a vision while also allowing the maximum improvisation potential of each member. We trust each other, so there are no bad musicians or wrong notes, just capable individuals.
Apothecary: I'm sure your musical influences for Neptunian Maximalism must be numerous, but who are some artists to whom you feel the greatest link with this work?
CZLT: For me the work of Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O))), Gravetemple, Khanate, the Shade Themes From Kairos album) is an undeniable influence. Then many musicians with whom he has collaborated among others like Oren Ambarchi, Steve Noble, or for my part Will Guthrie, Eliane Radigue, Ustad Asad Ali Khan, Pandit Malikajun Mansur, Manolo Caracol, Mike Vest, Al Cisneros and Matt Pike, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, John Coltrane, and I probably forget.
Apothecary: Are your compositions all improvised, or do they at times proceed from more of a pre established structure or idea?
CZLT: Personally I come with my inspirations which revolve around the metal drone and mystical music. These desires materialize for example in the 1st song of the album To The Sun, "EÔS". But no predefined structure. Never. It is only on "Odaiko" (To The Earth, 1st track) that we defined a rhythmic figure based on a GA(mala) GA(mala) TA(ki) TA(ki) TA(ki), but then who could say what would come out of it?
Apothecary: When you record for Neptunian Maximalism, do you go at each particular instrument separately, or have there been times where you all actually "record live" all together as a big band?
CZLT: For Éons we recorded 80% of the songs together, but the whole songs. For The Conference Of The Stars, the soprano sax track was done in one take, just like the solo from To The Moon: VAJRABHAIRAVA Part II - The Rising. But when I do my arrangements at home, I go through the same improv way and 1st intention process. That is to say, I try to play the same game by keeping the first take, as much as possible over the whole piece in one go. The black metal doom guitar on the 3 chapters of VAJRABHAIRAVA are thus done in a single large take.
Apothecary: Breaking it down, to my ears at least Neptunian Maximalism seems like a gargantuan fusion of drone, jazz, folk, and psychedelia. Of all of these though, which do you feel is really the core identity of the band, the foundation upon which all the rest is built so to speak?
CZLT: I would say all!
Apothecary: Neptunian Maximalism started in 2018 and dropped the Conference Of The Stars EP as well as the live album in that same year. What do you really see as having changed between then and the release of your debut Éons this year?
CZLT: Éons merges the tribal and voodoo elements found in the live experience at HS63 with the purely drone opera approach of The Conference Of The Stars. In this EP we also find alternative versions of some tracks from Éons, since everything was recorded in the same weekend.
Apothecary: While I wouldn't really call Éons a metal album as per the standard definition, it certainly seems to not only have an overall metal aesthetic about it, but also as though it's attracted a fair amount of attention from the international metal community at large. What do you think could be the reason for this?
CZLT: I think it's most definitely the fact that it was released on I, Voidhanger Records, beyond the metal elements, like some vocals that are definitely death / black / doom metal.
Apothecary: What do you think is the vital element that makes music that isn't metal still "feel metal", as I just described?
CZLT: I would already say the distortion and fuzz on the strings, clearly. Then the low tuning of the strings (A) and the baritone saxophone (C), which gives all the heavy side. Of course the growls and vocal cries. The loud volume sound. Martial batteries.
Apothecary: For a triple album over the 2 hour mark, Éons has a remarkable sense of flow to it both between its three discs as well as among the individual tracks on each disk. It never appears to drag or have any "filler" material to it, and at times it actually sounds as though it's just one immense, 130 minute performance. Did you all record each track separately, or was it indeed more of a continuous take that was just broken down into 16 separate "sections" later?
CZLT: A bit of both. One album is almost a big track + 1 or 2 tracks from another moment of the session. All carefully recomposed in post production.
Apothecary: Let's dive into the more thematic, philosophical side of Éons, as I'm quite sure there's a lot to unpack here. Considering the album's triple disc structure, from the perspective of Earth, Moon, and Sun, I feel there was something very primal you were trying to convey with this, as far as human history and the human relation to the cosmos. Would you care to elaborate on this structure, and the inspiration behind it?
CZLT: Yes, indeed. For a few years now I have been interested and questioning myself deeply about the future of living things on earth and the impact of the human species on them. In fact, it was necessary to study the evolution of the human species in comparison to that of other living species to realize that we have not yet reached the real status of "human beings." The point is that our destructive behaviors are not quite unique to humans alone, but a tendency towards biological expansionism which any species seizes upon when given the opportunity. Today we repress and prevent other species from escaping because of our ecological footprint. Thus it is almost impossible for us to conceive that, on an incommensurable time scale, other species can be candidates for "human" intelligence (articulated language, advanced technologies, culture, etc.). For me any animal is a potential human. The human is not a condition purely specific to the great hominins that we are, but for me a state of consciousness. We still have a way to go, because for the moment our condition of Homo sapiens sapiens locks us in a blinding pride with our position in the world. We must now aim for the next step: Homo sensibilis, the man who knows he does not know. To achieve this, it is imperative to reread and understand our most distant past, up to our "animal" state while adopting a non-anthropocentric posture.
Regarding the question of the stars and planets, I like to reconnect with this old knowledge (like zodiacal astrology) concerning the influence they have on us. This knowledge is like proto-psychology, tools that make it possible to apprehend oneself in society and to look at oneself (as an individual and as a civilization) with a certain distance. The name of each album is therefore a call emitted to these stars, an arrow of intention, power and contingency. It is also a homage to these invisible forces which, if they are well tamed, can guide us very far in our realization.
Apothecary: There also seems to be an underlying influence of ancient mythology to the album as well, as seen mostly through the track titles and their references ("Ptah Sokar Osiris", "Lamasthu", "Enuma Elis", "Vajrabhairava", etc). Where does this come from?
CZLT: It is because I have been completely passionate about ancient Egypt since childhood, and now by extension all the other forms of ancient polytheistic culture and civilizations. The character of our humanity was in these times already extremely well sketched, in particular through the polytheist myths.
Apothecary: Even though it isn't overly heavy on vocals or lyrics, I can't help shaking the feeling that there's some sort of story being told through Éons as well, as if it's a concept album of sorts. Is this the case? And if so, what might that story be?
CZLT: It's the case. The titles of the songs, as well as those of the 3 albums tell this story which goes from the birth of the Earth (Hadean Aeon) to the overcoming of hominin humanity, finally replaced by the probocidal reign: intelligent elephants, genetically evolved, endowed with a form of complex language, with a wide emotional spectrum, etc.
On the other hand, the songs are in "proto Homo sapiens" language, an imaginary speculative language developed by a researcher at Cambridge (see credits on the Éons album). And I load them with magical intent, but to you it doesn't literally mean anything.
Apothecary: Éons has a very majestic, theatrical sense about it too, almost as though it may have been influenced by opera, theater, or some similar artistic medium. What non musical influences do you feel may have exerted some type of inspiring force over your crafting of the album?
CZLT: Very clearly painting, since I am a painter. Cinema also, a lot of philosophy, and science. Then it is above all the form of the total art of ancient peoples, of which there are still living traces (endangered) throughout the world, mixing music, artifacts, movement, narration, etc. The cave is sometimes the scene of these spiritual and shamanic practices. And finally esoteric, occult and hermetic cultures are a very important source as well. Overall, it is all the art that appeals to the spiritual that interests me. As the German artist Jonathan Meese says: "Art is not religion, but every religions is art."
Apothecary: I mentioned the blend of influences that Neptunian Maximalism appears to draw from previously, but most of all, to me, you seem like a blend of drone and free jazz. I think this is a style that's evolved considerably in the past 20 years, what with work from Sunn O))), Pylar, The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, etc. Indeed, the two genres seem to go a lot better together than many might believe. Where do you see Neptunian Maximalism as fitting into this budding fusion?
CZLT: Let's say it happened on its own and it could be quite another thing because NNMM is a free entity to go where it can. I am very happy that we are in this area, and that she lives as long as it takes because it is a beautiful gateway to the past. Drone and free jazz are extremely primitive music.
Apothecary: In a way I think Neptunian Maximalism are even heirs to earlier examples of experimental ambient music, psychedelia, progressive rock, and drone. Listening to Éons I can't at times help but think of bygone work from the likes of La Monte Young, Kraftwerk, Van Der Graaf Generator, even perhaps The Velvet Underground. Do you all feel any particular kinship with this era of musical experimenting, say late 60s - late 70s?
CZLT: Yes, totally. What a beautiful period, there is no denying it, even if I find that our contemporaneity is absolutely fabulous.
Apothecary: How do you feel your music has really been received within the context of Belgium? Is there an audience for Neptunian Maximalism's peculiar style, or any type of Avant-garde scene or community you all feel you really emerged out of or try to target?
CZLT: In truth there is no real audience for NNMM (or not yet, haha!). There is a marginal audience for the experimental noise rock scene, extreme music, free importation, etc. of which I belong, but our niche is almost non-existent and outside the Belgian actual context. You know, I come from between the Camargue and the Cévennes, so I have other landscapes to provide.
Apothecary: How have past live performances gone, and, after COVID calms down, do you all have any big plans for future performances?
CZLT: The last lives went very well, each time a big step forward for us. Since the Covid, nothing in terms of live, may a lot in terms of outings! Our last live will be released on vinyl + DVD next January on I, Voidhanger Records. We will also be performing in a church at the Northern Winter Beat Festival in Denmark in January. And a tour project also on the way.
Apothecary: I'm sure that after dropping a release as monumental as Éons, you all may just want to settle down for a while, but I still can't help but ask… any plans for future Neptunian Maximalism material from here?
CZLT: Settle down? Never! We're going back to the studio soon and, with Stephane Fedele our drummer, we're in the process of taking over an old recording studio to renovate. Our rehearsals can be turned into perpetual productions!
Apothecary: Do you feel future material would continue in the vein of this broad fusion of drone, jazz, folk, and psychedelia, or as though you would prefer to pursue one of these areas over the others?
CZLT: No idea. It's the inspiration that speaks in the present moment, depending on who, where, how.
Apothecary: I feel as though the sound of Neptunian Maximalism is one that naturally lends itself to expansion and potential collaboration with other artists. Are there any, perhaps more well known musicians, within the drone, jazz, psychedelic, or even metal communities that you would at some point consider reaching out to and working on future material with?
CZLT: Personally, I would be delighted to work with Stephen O'Malley, Oren Ambarchi, Will Guthrie, Mats Gustafson, Michaël Zoé DeWitt, Alexey Tegin and so many more. We'll see what tomorrow will bring.
Apothecary: Are you working on any other projects at the moment besides Neptunian Maximalism, musical or non? Is there anywhere else we should look to perhaps see your talents applied to other mediums?
CZLT: Yes, at the moment I'm working on the CZLT project, whose first album will be released soon on Ascetic Visons, on another secret solo project of brutal psychedelic black metal, also I am looking for a label to release the new black metal album under DMT by JENNY TORSE, a new AKSU which is due to be released on Aurora Boréalis by the end of the year, and another side project from the members of Neptunian Maximalism which will probably be released under the name of ZAÄAR on WV Sorcerer Productions.
Otherwise it is possible to find my pictorial work on the internet, CZLT Tumblr for example. And of course more on my label, HOMO SENSIBILIS SOUNDS.
Apothecary: We always love getting recommendations from artists at Metal Storm, and are particularly open to nonmetal music. Hit us with some of your best suggestions before you tap out, please? Any music that's been particularly inspiring you or tickling your fancy lately.
CZLT: You can listen to the latest Magma without hesitation, the album of Chaos Echoes & Mats Gustafson, Gamelan music and other sacred music on my YouTube playlist.
I also can't wait to hear the new Skáphe. Listen to it live at Stockolm from Psychic TV. If you like what we do, you can't miss Zu and Mombu. But I have trouble with these questions because this is what comes to me like that at the moment, and in 1 hour I will start to think about all the things that I would like to share, and I would feel incomplete.
Apothecary: We're also a particularly manic bunch of cinephiles, always looking for what's new and chic in the realm of film. Any suggestions for the big screen, Belgian or non?
CZLT: It's hard, the cinema has become so poorer lately... but without hesitation Holy Motors by Léos Carax, Jodorowsky's films, and Keneth Anger of course (but that's old everyone knows). I love all Quentin Dupieux, but after that, in the recent films, I immediately have nothing else that comes to me right now.
Apothecary: We thank you again for the interview. Feel free to give any final shout out or word to Metal Storm if you'd like.
CZLT: Zazas, Zazas, Nasatanada Zasas!
*Thanks again to CZLT for the stimulating, thought provoking interview. If you haven't yet, give Neptunian Maximalism's Éons a spin over at this location.
OM SHANTIH SHANTIH SHANTIH.
||Posted on 16.09.2020 by Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable since 2013.|
Comments: 7 Visited by: 198 users
Hits total: 4591 | This month: 52