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Erdh - Interview

Interview with: Nicolas Pingelain
Conducted by: Ines

Allow me to get a bit (too) personal at this very moment and tell you, Erdh is one of the best musical discoveries I have made this year. A French duet composed of Nicolas Pingnelain and Emmanuel Lévy, took its form in 2012, with a debut album coming out a year later, carrying a strong title Resilient. An esoteric amalgam of metal tunes, layered with gothic, electronic and cinematic soundscapes, certainly creates a very unique ambiance, which became Erdh’s trademark. But what also makes Erdh special is their forthcoming EP, Sideremesis, which will be released on 19th October, because it takes their music even further: leaving the aggressive guitar riffs behind and serving solely with obscure, ambient, electronic tunes. So it happened I just felt the need to tell the world about Erdh and had the honour to have Nicolas answer a few questions, regarding Erdh, their past and future endeavours, background and influences.

Ines: Hello there Nicolas! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I just discovered Erdh recently and believe me when I tell you your music is something I have never heard before and I absolutely love it! But still, you formed Erdh back in 2012, so could you give me a few words on its formation?
Nicolas: We love to hear that we are proposing something new ! That is one of our main intent with our releases; we are trying to push the envelope, always searching first for emotions in our music. I’ve been working on musical ideas for a while when I met with Emmanuel, which I followed from Wormfood for a long time. Long story short: we decided very quickly to go for it as our ideas and visions were really resonating, with a main concept which is all about duality: I compose all songs with a cinematic approach, composing soundtracks for non-existing movies and then Emmanuel will write lyrics based on this. But I won’t disclose to Emmanuel any of the pictures or themes I had in mind when composing the song. The idea is to give a sense of dual approach to our songs, the context brought by lyrics and the initial intent through music itself.
Ines: I find the very name - Erdh –so very intriguing, because I really can't connect it to anything. What does it mean, what does it stand for?
Nicolas: We disclose much information about Erdh but, sadly, the name itself is the only piece of mystery we keep! The only things I can say are it has a pretty simple explanation and it is not an acronym.
Ines: What about your musical background? You already mentioned Emmanuel is active with Wormfood, but were or are there any other bands or projects any of you have been linked with before?
Nicolas: Both Emmanuel and I are pretty eclectic in our musical tastes. I’ve been listening to literally thousands of albums in all dark music genres, all kind of metal, goth and electro as I’ve been running and now the printed magazine ObskureMag. But I’m mostly coming from metal roots and I’ve played in several local bands. Emmanuel is leading Wormfood and will finish their next album at this very moment. He has been playing live with Carnival In Coal and collaborating on many projects like Melted Space and much more.
Ines: You released your debut album, Resilient, in 2013 and presented yourself with an exotic, yet very dark mixture of soundscapes: you mixed electronic styles with metal and created a very dense and profound atmosphere with each and every track. What would you say influenced you to create this album?
Nicolas: Anger, at first - overcoming personal issues! Resilient is very aggressive in a way: a kind of musical translation of strong feelings we had at this time for life reasons. You can feel this through the very heavy and recurring riffs on some songs: a feeling of things getting stuck and looping that will unlock at some point of time, get worse and worse or bring light suddenly. Although lyrics are mostly futuristic, this is a very “human” album for the feelings it carries. Musically, it would be extremely difficult to specify specific bands that influenced me – I listened to so many things that in one way or another it blends in my mind. The really interesting things are the feedbacks and reviews, when people understand your music in a certain way, talking about “emotional rollercoaster” (a quote I love) or linking your work to Nine Inch Nails or a very heavy Depeche Mode! But at this time, I was listening a lot to post-rock/post-core bands, like for instance: Isis, Cult Of Luna, Godspeed You!, Black Emperor and similar, as well as lighter things like Interpol or Queens Of The Stone Age and still some fundamentals like Emperor or Blut Aus Nord or Coroner. This on top of a new wave culture – I grew up listening to The Cure, Joy Division and all sorts of 80s electro.
Ines: Moving on what’s to come - your new EP, Sideremesis, is coming out this October. Is it in anyway linked to Resilient?
Nicolas: For sure, it is in our view 100% Erdh. The track "E-Creed" is a good example, strong chorus with totally de-structured ambient part somewhere in the middle, intriguing and dark movements happening all around before the final in-your-face comeback. But for sure, Sideremesis is more linked to the next album as all tracks have been composed at the same time. What is for sure is Emmanuel vocals will be way cleaner on our next album - in a vein that he started on Sideremesis - whilst Resilient was still carrying some harsh or very low singing. Sideremesis is the link between Resilient and our next album for sure. It is a risk for us as it can give the feeling of a U-turn from our first release, but it is our way of never standing still and we bet that people who liked Resilient will love Sideremesis – it is not about having guitars or not in an album, it is all about emotions brought by the music.

Ines: Interestingly you say that, because I noticed that very thing – while Resilient had many heavy, metal moments, such as for example "Codex Atrox", Sideremesis is much more electronic and draws ambient from different direction, but it’s still as powerful in its atmosphere as Resilient was. Does that mean the full length album you’re talking about will be more in the vein of Sideremesis or can your fans expect some more bone-crushing moments coming from you?
Nicolas: Our next full-length release for sure features some very heavy guitars! So be prepared for some in-your-face punches, but in a more structured way compared to Resilient. We’ve put emphasis on the dynamic development of songs, still surrounded by electronic layers and strange drones to build atmospheres. It won’t be an electronic only album, but a very organic one: mixing power, catchiness and emotions. We are now finalizing the vocals but most of the work is done.
Ines: Speaking of Sideremesis and as before you spoke of your influences - the very beginning of the opening, title track heavily reminds me of Laibach: the strong electronic background, the powerful rhythm behind it and the vocals. Is Laibach an act you’re familiar with and could have possibly have had an influence on your music?
Nicolas: Obviously we both know Laibach but I wouldn’t say it is a strong influence for us, not consciously for sure. Indeed it might be possible to refer to some of their work in some parts of our music. The "Sideremesis" track intro was maybe more in my mind like a Joy Division fundamental vibe revisited by Erdh.
Ines: You also recently released your first video clip for the remix of "Pink Circuit", a song originally released on Resilient. Why choose this particular song for the video?
Nicolas: We quickly envisioned "Pink Circuit" as one of our strongest songs on Resilient, maybe the one with the most potential for being manipulated in any way and with a strong potential for images. For some reasons, the initial video clip has never been released but with the remix being there, that was the perfect timing.
Ines: The video itself is very intriguing and visually strong, what does it represent? How is it connected with the song?
Nicolas: Well, it is with no doubt our vision of the "Pink Circuit" theme, which is globally about the implications of potential future cybersex, what could be the effects of having sex with robots, the type of addiction it could raise. But we didn’t want to go for traditional route of explicit sex scene or full nudity with videos – it may be a bit too straightforward and expected, so we surrounded all of this with some contemplative schemes and images. Sexual robots that could reconfigure faces and body on the fly, that would proceed to any (strange) request, intercourses in a fantasy world, enhanced with new drugs molecules – how would it be for people to manage the antagonism between the real day-to-day life and a fantasy world where any desire is fulfilled? So we tried to propose something indeed visually strong and yes, intriguing and to your words, seems like we made it happen!
Ines: Indeed you have. So, how did it come that Mlada Fronta did a remix of "Pink Circuit" in the first place?  
Nicolas: Mlada Fronta is a very big influence for me. I’ve been in contact with Remy Pelleschi for more than a decade now and we discussed many times around several common projects we were helping on. Remy is not only a great musician, he is also a stunning sound engineer and producer and I often get his feedback on my songs. So it came very naturally to ask Mlada Fronta if he would be OK for a remix and “Voilà !”. Then it is all about opportunities: Remy has been working hard to redefine Mlada Fronta visions through his last album Polygon and he did the remix during this period, at the very same time I was putting final touch to the electronic songs that are now Sideremesis EP. Perfect timing! Remy for sure did an incredible job with this remix, he really transcended the initial version and I simply love this remix.
Ines: I agree there, I also think the outcome is more than outstanding! You also inked a deal with Apathia Records, through which Sideremesis will be released. How that collaboration did come to be?
Nicolas: Emmanuel knew Apathia from the reissue of their debut Décade(nt). We had discussions with Jehan from Apathia at the Resilient times and he was already fan of Erdh, but at this time we decided to release it ourselves. So naturally we came back to Apathia for the release of Sideremesis and our next album. The deal has been inked very fast. We love simple things and nice people to work with in this area and so it was a no-brainer for us to go with Apathia. They are providing us cool support and total freedom, the physical EP is superb and, more globally, Apathia isn’t afraid of anything! If they like what you are doing - whatever the style - they go for it, so it is just perfect for a band like Erdh!
Ines: What about live appearances? I checked your website and there are no dates there - do you even perform live?
Nicolas: So far we are a studio project – we don’t deny we’d like to perform on stage but if we do so, we want to propose a full experience with videos and so. We aim for a minimal formation on stage, so a lot of work is involved to create the good environment and we haven’t had the opportunity yet to make it happen. Plus Emmanuel has a lot of ongoing projects, the new Wormfood is on its way. But when we find a VJ on the same page as us, we should move forward very quickly on live performances.
Ines: All right, I really hope that time will come soon and that I’ll get a chance to experience you live sometime perhaps. Now, you mentioned earlier the tracks for the forthcoming album have already been composed. Do you know when you’re hitting the studio to record the new material or have any time frame when the new album is to be released – or at least you would want to be released?
Nicolas: Actually all instruments are already tracked! We only have vocals to be recorded now and for sure we’ll go to the Walnut Groove Studios for these sessions. Then some technical time is needed for mixing and mastering but first half of 2016 for the release is our target!
Ines: Glad to hear, because I’m really looking forward to it. Another thing I want to expose now is your way of mixing music and visuals – I am usually one of those type of listeners, who really don’t give much emphasis on cover artwork, unless it really stands out for me and the image on the cover of Sideremesis really spoke to me in a way I can’t really explain. Still, couldn’t help but notice the cover of Resilient was very dark and on the opposing side - Sideremesis is in bright, yellow colours. Does that have anything to do with the music – resonating on Resilient being harsher and darker than Sideremesis? And also: who created those two artworks?
Nicolas: All artworks we use for Erdh are designed by our friend Lionel Londeix. We’ve known each other for decades and he’s a great fan of Erdh. We basically give him a few guidelines and then the magic starts. On the pictures side, same thing, Candice Cellier is our photograph and produces all promo shoots. The visuals are a very important part of the whole experience: Resilient was in my mind very urban and dark, about loneliness and inner emptiness, which could be interpreted in the artwork with the city barely appearing in the background. I view Sideremesis as more liquid and organic - like strange cells mutating at high pace.
Ines: To go on with the visual with music theme: do you intend or wish to create more video clips in the future?
Nicolas: It is a lot of work and investment for sure but this temptation would exist for each and any track. It’s a matter of finding the good people there also, so depending on opportunities we’ll face, that most likely to happen.
Ines: Well, hope you manage to find them. Now Nicolas, to shift in other spheres a bit: you’re also running the printed and on-line magazine and I don’t think we need to introduce it – I believe it’s a well-known magazine for every lover of darker tunes. A few word behind creating your magazine? Could you choose what you prefer: creating music or running a magazine?
Nicolas: My buddy Emmanuel Hennequin and I created in 2000 and I’ve been extremely involved until 2011, writing hundreds of reviews and interviews. I enjoyed it like mad but it was so much of an involvement I didn’t find time to make serious music. Getting from online to printed version was: both a crazy challenge, but also an accomplishment in a way, some kind of recognition. But I had to take a few steps back to be able to focus on my own music and it is now by far my main thing. Running a magazine is pretty much altruistic as you give guidelines to others on good music, when creating music like Erdh is more self-centred: like putting out of your brain some strange ideas and recording them. It is more personal, more intense!
Ines: That’s an interesting insight, actually. As you have been involved in music for such a long time now and as we spoke before the collaboration between Erdh and Mlada Fronta - if anything was possible, which band or musicians would you love to collaborate – either remixing your songs or contributing to Erdh as a guest?
Nicolas: Oh there are many! As guests, I’d love to have Anneke Van Giersbergen singing on a track, I’m fan of her work with The Gathering and I love the vibe she puts in songs. Why not have some buddies like Hreidmarr from the CNK/ex-Anorexia Nervosa or Asphodel (ex-Pin Up Went Down) also singing on some songs? That’s a matter of what serves the song and opportunities happening at the same time. Who knows what’s next! I’d love to be remixed by Aucan, they are really special in a good way. But there are so many friends and contacts out there that once again it’s only a matter of finding people sharing your view and enjoying your work, feeling inspired by your music rather than “forcing” or renting people to work with you - even if they are pro and do splendid work, it is never the same when people are powered by their belief and passion.
Ines: Seems we have a lot in common, I’m a big fan of Anneke as well and I can already picture her voice on a song of yours, would be amazing for sure! And if we take a sneak peek at your music player at the moment – what would we find there, what are you currently listening to most?
Nicolas: Right now, I’m into the last Leprous’s The Congregation and C.R.O.W.N’s Natron as well as Callisto’s Secret Youth, October File and also Carpenter Brut but I must admit I’m searching for new music less. I often get back to some references like Emperor’s Prometheus…, Blut Aus Nord, Isis, Cult Of Luna, Interpol, IAMX, Queens Of The Stone Age… I’m also big fan of Ez3kiel, Godspeed You!, Black Emperor, The Evpatoria Report or The Gathering, Archive, Killing Joke, Arcturus and Enslaved, to name a few! Not forgetting Ulver, obviously… Way too many to be exhaustive, actually!
Ines: You know what Nicolas, I think our readers will get a pretty deep insight of what and who Erdh is from this conversation, so thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with me. Wishing you all the best in future and hopefully we’ll talk again once your new album comes out next year. Anything you’d like to add at the end – as a message to our readers?  
Nicolas: Thank you for this very interesting interview! Now it is up to your readers to give Erdh a try and share the name as much as possible. It is very hard to get some visibility today and the audience is the key. If you feel yourself open-minded and like emotions in music, you should find Erdh captivating!

Erdh links: Official website, Facebook