Lifestream: The Toilet ov Hell Interview
You may remember the coverage we did on Emanations, the sub label of French black metal label Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions. You may also remember the excellent album, Post Ecstatic Experience, from the band Lifestream. Offering a raw, heavy approach to black metal, this French quintet demonstrates a knack for pacing and delivery. It’s easy to lose yourself in the swirling, mid-range fullness and tasteful keyboard touches, but it’s just as easy to hang on to the nuance and depth displayed in the songwriting. Lifestream’s vocalist (identified as J) and bassist (identified as T) were kind enough to give me some insight to their creative process and mindset as a band.
I hate to start off with such a typical question, but many of our readers may not be familiar with Lifestream: can you tell us about the history of the band? Pictures of band members are always shadowy or obscured, do you prefer to keep names and identities out of the spotlight?
J : Lifestream is a French black metal project, started in 2012, by different members of the underground scene of Bordeaux. About our dark imagery; we prefer that people concentrated on our music and visuals instead of focus on musicians identities.
In a broad sense, where does Lifestream find inspiration? Other music, movies, books, philosophy, etc?
J : We all have different influences, some out of the metal scene. In my case, if the melody reaches me and makes me feel familiar emotions, no matter the kind of music, it’s fine. But more precisely, I would mention German, Norwegian and Swedish black metal scenes, rock music in a large sense, various soundtracks, but also cinema, myths and a lot of introspection, observation, and emotions.
T : Personally, I listen a lot of old Norwegian black metal and I think that is what inspired me the most for my bass lines. I’ve always been in the hardcore/crust scene too, and I like the challenge of mixing that kinds of riffs with something more mesmerizing. But when we are composing together, it’s a lot about the mood of the day, and feelings of each other. The best influence is the world and universe around us.
Narrowing that last question down a bit, can you tell us about the writing/creative process for the band? How do you turn that inspiration into a specific direction for your music, or how do one or two riffs grow into a whole song?
T : Guitar riffs are the base of a song most of the time. Then everyone works around it, trying different ideas.
J : In fact, it is rare for us to have a precise idea of a final song before its creation. Nevertheless, the album has an intentional unity.
France has a history of producing not only a ton of great black metal bands, but also a distinctive French black metal sound that each band has a unique interpretation of. With all that in mind, do you find it intimidating or inspirational to be in the middle of it all?
J : Neither one nor the other. I admit to not being fond of the French black metal scene, even if there are some bands that I really respect. This is not what inspires me. By the way, I don’t think Lifestream offer a black metal “à la française”.
T : There are some bands that I really love in France, it’s a real prolific music in our country, but I’ve never look deeper in this scene to be inspired or intimidated by it. The label who released our tape, Les Acteurs De L’Ombre Production, only have French black metal bands that all are very invested and mature. It’s very encouraging for us.
Let’s talk about your fantastic new album, Post Ecstatic Experience. As one would expect, there is a somber darkness to the music and lyrics, but both seem to have a distant, subtle hopefulness at times. Is this duality intentional, or am I just hearing things?
J : Yes, you’re right, and I’m happy you noticed it! This duality is the essence of our music, and reflects particularly our album whose theme is the correlation between rapture and collapse. Some triumphant moments, others depressing or dark.
Very interesting. I can see that there is a lot to unfold with repeated listens. Can you tell us about the overall direction of Post Ecstatic Experience? Can you elaborate on those themes that shape the album as a whole?
T : The name of the album, Post Ecstatic Experience, is implicit. Through our music, we explore the different sides of the apex of an instant in the ecstasy, or in the pain. And then come the fall, which can have many approaches. You can find this concept in a lot of very different situations in life. Each song describes various ways of this contrast.
From a production standpoint, there is a very heavy focus on raw, full tones that really emphasize each note and chord. What was the recording process like, as well as the process for deciding on sounds?
T : I won’t hide that the mastering of the album was really hard. There are many tones and melodies that we wanted to highlight. We also work with samples that create a particular mood, the challenge was to homogenize all of this without deviating from our first ideas. But Nerik from the Darkened Studios worked hard and did a great job !
J : We retreated in countryside for one week to record the album. All was fixed, but we tried spontaneous ideas, and at last we kept some of them.
Who does your artwork?
J : The tape cover was made by our drummer, and the complete artwork by Rom from the label LADLO. There is a second artwork version for the CD format, which comes from an old italian engraving.
Perhaps more than any other sub genre, black metal has had a long history of competing ideologies, bitter opposition, and endless opinions. To you, what does it mean to be a black metal band in 2015? Along with that, what does it mean to exist in the underground?
J : Black Metal is a music born in blood and ashes, but it has evolved since its creation, and a lot of sub genres appeared, abandoning the aggressive side of primitive bands, musically and in mindset. Nowadays, there are a lot of bands which mix it with different styles and offer interesting results. I play Black Metal simply because it’s the most emotional metal style to my eyes, and in which I can express myself. Existing in the underground is being a part of it, to propose his own vision.
T : There are so many faces in this sub genre. The thing is, it’s just about the music. Lifestream handle existentialist and philosophical lyrics that should speak to everyone. Underground circles are really different now than when black metal was born, and there is many faces of the underground too. Being a part of this scene, is just believing in it, and support it each as his own level, each with his own competences.
When you guys aren’t in Lifestream mode, what do you do in your free time or in the real world?
T : We all have different occupations, and other bands. I personally play in a power violence band. Our drummer plays in two other metal projects as well.
What’s next for Lifestream? Are there plans for touring or regional support shows?
J : Lifestream just played a gig in Bordeaux at the end of May with The Great Old Ones, and we’ll play other shows in France which we’re working on, but no tour is planned for this year.
Thanks so much for your time! Any last thoughts?
T : Thank you for being so much interested in our project ! Thanks to all the people who support us.
J : Keep the grey flame alive!