Iron Fist Magazine

CAUCHEMAR INTERVIEW: “WE LOVE FRENCH METAL FROM THE ’80S”

It’s no surprise that we love CAUCHEMAR here at Iron Fist. The Montreal metal machine are fronted by the one and only Annick Giroux, author of our World Downfall column. But nepotism be damned, even if Annick wasn’t part of the family we’d still be a sucker of their Sabbath meets Mercyful Fate meets Sortilege meets Blue Oyster Cult vibes. With a new album ‘Chappelle Ardente’ out now we look back to Iron Fist #6 (Summer 2013) when Dave Sherwood had a dangerous meeting with the band around the release of their Nuclear War Now! Productions debut ‘Tenebrario’

We know you as our world correspondent, but not for your own music – tell us about Cauchemar
Annick:Cauchemar started as a doom metal project between myself and the guitarist, François [Patry]. At first, I wanted to play bass, but we couldn’t find a vocalist so I decided to sing instead. We were aiming to play ‘trad’ doom but our heavy metal influences took over and it ended up being some sort of bastard mix of heavy/doom. We recorded and released our mini-album ‘La Vierge Noire’ in 2010, and did our first three gigs in Canada afterwards. In January, 2011, myself and the guitarist left for a trip around the world. Then along the way, we managed to find rehearsal places pretty much everywhere and we wrote the songs for what became the new album ‘Tenebrario’. When we got back to Canada, we worked on the arrangements with Andres (bass) and Patrick (drums). We recorded the album in Ottawa last January.”

You must have picked up some influences on your travels, can you tell us about anything specific?
Living in places like Peru and Thailand, and meeting people with different visions of the world, was really inspiring creatively. We discovered so much incredible music and we played and spent time with other people like us, who live for music. Also, I think that the Buddhist philosophy and what’s left of the pre-Columbian beliefs in South America really left their mark on our minds.”

I love the French vocals. Despite presumably speaking French at home, why was it decided to sing in a less-accessible language?
French is our first language! We decided to sing in French because we love French metal from the ’80s – bands like Sortilège, H-Bomb, Vulcain, Blasphème, ADX – and we wanted to write good metal in our own language. Also, I think French really sounds mystical and it fits our music perfectly.”

‘La Vierge Noire’ translates as ‘The Black Madonna’, where the Virgin Mary is presented through various art forms during the Medieval period of having black or dark skin. My knowledge on the subject doesn’t go beyond that, can you fill us in a bit more about the matter and why it was chosen as the title of your EP?
“‘La Vierge Noire’ is actually about the Egyptian goddess Isis, who was worshipped in some parts of Europe. When Christianity came, they integrated her as a the ‘Black Madonna’, so people would worship a Christian goddess instead! Many are still found in Europe – but especially in France. It was chosen because it unites all the songs in some way, especially ‘Le Voile d’Isis’, of course!”

Your main lyrical content surrounds horror, occultism and fantasy, right?
We love old Italian horror movies and maybe some of their atmosphere is reflected in our songs. The mist, the old decaying tombs, people coming back from the dead… but the songs are mostly about our own mystical experiences and our vision of the world. We have a loose concept for Cauchemar, which started with ‘La Vierge Noire’s Isis theme and will unfold with each new album. We don’t want to explain too much because we like to leave space for each person’s own interpretation, but ‘Tenebrario’ is mainly about spiritual death and rebirth, the dark night of the soul…”

Moving away from the vocals and lyrics; the music itself is very unique and individual. Are there any non-predictable influences in your sound?
Thanks! I listen to a lot of ’70s heavy rock, as well as Malicorne, which is French folk rock from the ’70s. And Dead Can Dance! François listens to a lot to American folk also. The new songs are influenced by our trip, and perhaps local music we’ve heard as well.”

You were picked up by Nuclear War Now! Productions, a label typically known for working largely with death and black metal bands. How did such a working-relationship come about?
I sent a few songs to Yosuke [NWN!] and he immediately offered to work with us! He was very, very, enthusiastic about it, which is something quite rare with him – at least in my experience dealing with him! Myself and Yosuke have actually known each other for many years. Although most of his releases are death and black metal, he also has released some more traditional stuff, like Witchfinder General, Mercy, Armour, Heathen Hoof etc.”

So, it would seem yourself and François (guitars) have been exploring our planet, adapting from culture-to-culture and mingling in with locals. Your entertaining column for Iron Fist and your blogposts have certainly kept your followers up-to-date with your movements. What made the both of you decide to travel, where you have visited, and anywhere you have particularly enjoyed the most?
When I was in my second year of college, I worked in a graphic design studio where one of the two owners was crazy for traveling. For example, she spent three months walking across France with only a sleeping bag and some clothes. It really fascinated me. She once told me that if I really want to travel, nothing should stop me from it. A couple of years later, I went to France with François (now my husband) but since we were only allowed two weeks of vacations per year, we only left for a week. We had totally overloaded the trip with activities (Paris, Mont Saint Michel, Saint Malo, Carnac, Poitiers and then back to Paris) and although we enjoyed our trip, we came back totally burnt out – with empty wallets. It became clear: why should we work a whole year to only get two weeks off? It’s not logical at all! Thus, we decided to work two years – put all of our money in the bank, and then leave for a year and a half. It was really hard and we had to make many sacrifices, but hell – it was totally worth it of course! We visited Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, England, Belgium, Switzerland, etc. It’s been fucking insane! I enjoyed every country in different ways, but I know I want to go back to Peru and Japan. Perhaps when I get older I will spend winters in Peru or something. Who knows?! It’s cheaper to live there than in Canada, and I could escape the evil Canadian winter.”

I particularly enjoyed reading about your time in Nepal. From the mischievous sweet-hunting children to the hazardous buildings in the city. I am under the impression everything is very cheap in Nepal, including the rental of crappy pink acoustic guitars. How often have you been able to do Cauchemar related activity on your travels?
Nepal is pretty cheap for hotel rooms ($6 for a double hotel room without toilet!) but there’s some stuff that is extremely expensive, like spending $7 on a Nutella jar. They often will raise prices because you are a foreigner and you have pale skin! As for Cauchemar, we were able to work on the band quite a lot actually. Every time we were in a large city, we’d find a music store and ask them if they knew where we could rehearse. We were able to write many songs and riffs that way – about 70 percent of the new album.”

What have the other band members been doing whilst you have been out of the country?
Well, we got to play seven amazing gigs; one in Colombia, one in Peru, four in Chile and one in India! Our drummer Pat has started a new band called Asile, which is Scandinavian style hardcore punk with metallic leads. The bassist that joined us for our European tour is in a million bands, among them is the excellent heavy metal band Iron Dogs.”

As everyone should know, one factor of touring is the lack of food; as a food blogger and cook book author, you can guess what these last few questions are leading onto, can’t you? What treats did you come across whilst traveling, and how did you find preparing and cooking food in a way you might not be used to?
There is no lack of food when I’m touring! Food is so important for me. People in South America were always surprised when I pulled out random food from my bag! I had the amazing chance to taste some absolutely rare and delicious food from all over the world, I could write ten pages about it, but I’ll try to keep it brief! In Mexico, I really enjoyed the home-made tortillas and quesadillas that were sold in the streets. Everything comes with guacamole and chillies. It was so good! In Colombia, I really enjoyed Arepas de Choclo, which are some sort of sweet corn pancake that you eat with melting butter and salt. They also have killer beans over there, and a great potato soup in Bogota. In Chile, I enjoyed mostly the mix of Chilean and German food (there was a big immigration wave of ‘em in the early century). The best dish I had there was called Crudos, which is some kind of steak tartare served on rye bread. In Argentina, I enjoyed some killer red wine ice cream in the north! I unfortunately didn’t have enough money to indulge on crazy steaks and stuff like that. Bolivia had some really obscure and tasty treats, like peanut soup and a warm, cinnamon-flavoured purple corn drink called Api. They also had the best empanadas of South America! You ate them and the cooking juice would drip on you… they were so nice and tasty. Peru had the best food of all of South America, but my absolute favourite from there is a dish called ceviche, which is raw fish prepared with green lemon juice, onions and chillies. It sounds weird and simple, but it is to die for! Hell yes! [readers, you don’t realise how much I had to edit out]

You should have taken your patched apron which is seen on the front cover of your ‘Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook’; a bible of favourite meals given by some ‘tasty’ bands. How and where did the initial idea for the book begin?
The apron would have probably fallen apart like all my other clothing. Anyway, the idea came from a record shopping trip to downtown Montreal. I was looking for used records, as well as used cookbooks… and then I told myself that it would be interesting to mix both together! Asking my favourite metal bands for their favourite metal recipes and make a book out of it! When I got home, I asked all the bands I knew for recipes, and then eventually turned it into a fanzine; which grew into a full blown book!”

Your ultimate recipe is…
I don’t have a specialty, at least – not yet. But if you are talking about the book, it would be a tie between Mayhem’s farikal, and Autopsy’s jalapeño bacon bombs!”

What happens next for Cauchemar?
In the next few months, we’ll play some shows in the United States and Canada, including Wings Of Metal festival with Satan and Manilla Road, and two shows in Chile in October, one supporting Sabbat from Japan! We’re hoping to do a tour in Europe next year. We also have some crazy ideas for the next record, but I don’t know if it will work out… We’ll see! As for travels, I’m pretty sure we’ll leave again for another long trip. Travelling has become a way of life for us.”