“May God Keep You”
Dernière Volonté’s Le Feu Sacre was one of the more impressive releases I bought from last year. (Which year that was we won’t tell.) Very rarely does anything outside of metal, the area that I admit I am most familiar with, move me in such a way as Dernière Volonté; very rarely does anything paint such emotional landscapes in my mind. There is a sublimity to this project, a sensitivity in spite of the palpable austerity, the almost mechanical, martial rhythms, that gives it a very unique personality and depth. It is externally severe, but inwardly soft, deftly floating in the nexus in between. Possibly it is even neither, but rather… something else. I just find it very hard to communicate what I feel.
“First of all thanks for your compliments, it’s always a pleasure to hear!” Geoffroyd, Dernière Volonté’s chief composer, exclaims. “I do feel that Le Feu Sacre has this very particular sound that you so rightly describe. But whilst recording, I had no real knowledge of what was happening. This probably comes from the fact that I am always oscillating between dynamism and depression. Le Feu Sacre is really a testimony of the way I was feeling at the time (it was recorded between 1998 and 2000), words and music were written very spontaneously, and one can still hear that nowadays. I’m very content that you felt what you describe, indeed my ‘aim’ was to awaken new feelings in the listener, to incite him to see beyond the simple form I was presenting.”
As many are probably unaware of the project and its history, I ask Geoffroyd to update us on how things started. What prompted him, for example, to become active in recording music in the first place, and was Dernière Volonté the very first project he’s ever been involved in?
“Derniere is my first project,” he affirms. “Before that there wasn’t much, just an experimental phase. I sometimes collaborate with other projects and I sometimes develop more ‘secret’ projects. In fact it took me a very long time to make my music somewhat known, almost four years. I started Dernière Volonté in 1994 with a very small amount of material and only started working on Obeir et Mourir in 1995 (first work, which came out as a double tape). This work was distributed only in 1998, and was limited to 120 copies on my own label (La Nouvelle Alliance), which I share and ‘run’ with Arnaud of I-C-K. It is only when my path crossed Hau Ruck!’s that my work started to be distributed in a better way. All the music in Dernière Volonté is done only by me, for I am the sole member of the project, but sometimes friends are invited to collaborate on a musical or graphical level. The advantage of being alone is that I depend on nobody and am therefore free to express myself in all liberty.”
What were some of the complexities of the Le Feu Sacre recording, the origin of the sound sources and the recording process? More importantly, the concept of this release, if there is one: was there something that led up to it? Personally, I sense some kind of definite ‘process’ that led to the crystallization of this release, a transition, an ‘overcoming’…
“Le Feu Sacre took two years in the making,” says Geoffroyd. “I recorded a lot of material and I selected the best for Hau Ruck! The sounds were made with my equipment. I was looking more for spontaneity than at the technical side of things, seeing how limited it was. Maybe that’s what makes Le Feu Sacre so special, and you are right on insisting about the way it was recorded. I simply tried to make the best out of the material and bring out the purest of emotion, beyond the technicalities of the music.”
Although every track on Le Feu Sacre is of high quality, my two favorites are no doubt “Der Zorn Gottes” and “Marche Funebre”. Such mesmerizing, haunting pieces of music. They leave a true lasting impression on the listener, a specter that haunts one well beyond hearing them. I ask Geoffroyd to comment on each, separately, if possible, and to consider if there were any directly traceable sources of inspiration for each piece. What does he picture in mind when playing them to himself? And is it something he generally likes to do—go back to his own music? I know some musicians have a kind of horror of leisurely listening to their own music…
“Whatever I say on those titles will never embody the emotions it generated on the listeners,” Geoffroyd affirms in response to my question. “”Der Zorn Gottes” is for me the wrath of God upon Man and his destructive nature. One day will come when we will have to pay for the horrors perpetrated by our species.
“As for “Marche Funebre”,” he continues, “it is a compassionate procession of hope for our future destiny… I don’t remember what images I had in mind when I recorded these tracks and when I hear them I wonder how I was able to come up with them, seeing how poor my equipment was at the time! I usually listen to my work during the recording sessions. Otherwise, I try not to, as I only hear the things that I feel are ‘wrong’. I suppose that’s why some musicians don’t like listening to their stuff.”
It’s interesting that Dernière Volonté employs several languages in its lyrics: French, German and even English. I wonder where each is perceived best to fit, to what kind of atmosphere? Are certain languages more workable toward the communication of particular feelings than others? Personally, as a bilingual speaker myself (Russian and English), I tend to feel that way, as sometimes I have to dance around words in order to convey my emotions, in both languages really. Also, in conjunction, does it bother Geoffroyd at all that the world seems to be gravitating toward a universal language, mainly, English? From my own experience the French and German people tend to be very conservative in regard to the infiltration of alien languages in their culture, and certainly many Americans also. In fact, this sophistry probably applies on a universal scale… but what does the man think personally?
“It is clear that French will always be my favorite form of expression, which is natural as it is part of my life and culture. What I find pretty lame is the way some projects over-use the English language, as if that form of expression masked their incapacity to transmit an intelligible and audacious message. Now, I am not shut to other languages, and I find—for example—Novy Svet’s use of Spanish very original.”
The photographs that adorn the art of Le Feu Sacre are quite remarkable. I am curious of where they were taken, especially the heroic statue of the old man and the child, pictured on the cover. Such a remarkable design, conveying strength, wisdom, virtue… and there’s also an eerie, if not prophetic, quality to the image.
“The picture is a photograph of Arno Breker’s Saint Michael,” he answers. “The photography was just fit for the themes explored in Le Feu Sacre. The design was conceived by myself and Marquise Do, who worked well to obtain the nice result. The Sacred Fire is a symbol for our desire and will to act accordingly to our faith and ideas. It is also the power, the internal strength that guides and motivates us in our disillusioned lives. It is somewhat the equivalent of a divine energy.”
I’ve heard that a double-cassette set and two 7” EP’s have been recorded beside this album. Are these still available? Where can one obtain them, if so?
“None of these productions are available any more, and some have been sold out for some time now. Nonetheless, the double tape should be reissued as a double CD and 3LP. As for the 7”, I might do something about it, in order to stop the bids that rise to scandalous prices,” he says.
I imagine that such music demands certain special dimensions in a live venue, an atmosphere conducive to the proper communication of its power; perhaps even a visual display, an old black and white film in the background of the performance conveying ambiguous imagery, a close-up of a shard of grass, an abandoned alleyway, ruins in the thick of meadows, etc. I think of old Ingmar Bergman movies: rising, towering speakers, a cold, stoic austerity in the visuals. This is how I envision a Dernière Volonté performance… Tell me, Geoffroyd, has Dernière Volonté ever performed in a live setting?
“I have not yet had the time to work on a ‘live act’,” Geoffroyd confesses, “but the possibility is not excluded. A Hau Ruck! festival is deemed to be put up some time in the future, so that might be the occasion to present myself more alive than ever! It is clear that I will present Dernière Volonté in its most spontaneous and dynamic aspect, and what you describe is very interesting as it is in accordance with what I wish to develop. Time will tell, my friend!”
It’s interesting to find out what other kinds of bands would gather in support of such a festival. But, if the current climate and interest in neo-folk is any indication, I imagine it won’t be so difficult to fill an audience… Militaristic industrial music has definitely gained more attention in the press, and the world, in the last few years. How does Dernière Volonté look upon or fit into the mold of other bands in the ‘genre’, if the word can be excused? For example, the band Der Blutharsch has been very influential on many artists in the recent past, I know; also, Blood Axis, Death in June, Allerseelen. But this is nothing essentially ‘new’, and we all know this. Non, for example, has been creating such music years ago. But still… is such art more relevant today? I sometimes feel it is personally.
“This form of music is in fact a curious by-product of the original industrial music, even if it lacks cohesion as the concepts are not along the same lines anymore. I am not particularly interested in the ‘genre’. From your list I only feel drawn to Der Blutharsch, Non and Death in June. Der Blutharsch so because, before all, Albin is a friend and I have always been interested by his musical endeavors. Non/Boyd Rice is for me a living legend; he has experimented everything very intelligently: noise, experimental, militarist music and even pop. All his records are classics and I am still very impressed by his early work. I feel drawn to Death in June because for me they are a classical reference of the ‘cold wave’ of the 80’s. The strength of their records has been tragically decreasing, but it is always with great pleasure that I put their first records on my turntable,” he responds.
As nostalgia and sorrow, at least for myself, tend to be intimately linked, if we were to disengage ourselves from the past, to distance ourselves from prior ills and misfortunes, it would be possible then, some would argue, to lead a ‘better life’. But to desensitize oneself in such a way, to ablate all manners of guilt, in a manner of speaking, is it also to shallow the pool of one’s present?
“I’m not sure I get what your are precisely trying to articulate here… The past is an important experience that influences our perspectives and ways of living. I find it is important to keep this heritage and not to be totally desensitized to what has forged and will forge our minds.”
I leave Geoffroyd with one final question. Today we live in a time of strife, when all manners of civil, organized and even spiritual wars are taking place, on both a smaller and larger scale. I am speaking primarily of the undeveloped third world. This war and strife, is it ‘healthy’ in his mind? This is obviously a transitional period. Many of the acts and decisions taking place today will probably have a huge effect on the future of the race for generations to come. Does this discord parts of the world are in, this hostility displayed toward one another, does he think it is mankind’s ‘natural playground’, as it were? What is your own synopsis, your own antidotal philosophy to these questions?
“The period we are living in is not that alarming,” he asserts. “I sincerely believe that the more things change, the more they stay the same, everything is to be understood in cycles. For all the horror of war, it has always been a familiar element of man’s nature. If you think of all the things that you have observed in the world since you were able to analyze it, you will understand that men are not made to live together harmoniously. I have a tendency to think that one day we will pay for what we have done to the earth and all the species that inhabit it. I am Catholic and, in a way, I believe in the Final Judgment. For me this great cataclysm will announce the rebirth of a world that will be more Just, and a body and soul correlation with our environment. As for myself, I am just another wanderer in a world that I have not chosen and who will easily do without me once I’m gone… May God keep you.”