Interview with Demian's Nicolas Chapel
by DPRP's Edwin Roosjen
This year's Symforce Festival was the first time for Demians to play abroad and the shy man from France and his two companions were even asked to play on the main stage. In a program dominated by metal bands his sensitive music would be the odd one out. Right after his show I had the chance to talk to Nicolas Chapel, the shy French man
who suddenly acclaimed world wide success with his debut album Building An Empire. For that album he did everything by himself, writing, recording even the artwork. What a change to bring these songs live in front of an audience with Demians as a band.
EDWIN: How did you feel playing at the Symforce Festival, on the main stage?
NICOLAS: Extremely impressed, we are still a young band and this was only our third show. It's been a month since we started working with the band members, they had to learn all the parts and I had to work very hard in trying to make the band sound like a band and not like somebody with backing musicians, I'm not interested in that. Our first show was in April and the second was in June with Ministry. It's only our third show ever so we really need to play, we want to grow as a band. What I really want to do right now is play live, I want to do more shows. We are going on tour with Anathema in October and it's very exiting. Symforce was really impressive and really exciting.
EDWIN: You looked like everything needed to be perfect, constantly tuning, are you a perfectionist?
NICOLAS: I just got sick two days ago, I got some fever and it was really hard being on stage with all the lights and the headache. I'm really obsessed with my throat these days. I'm always careful about that but there was someone around being sick and not being so careful as I am. We also have a very small team, we don't have any technicians so we have to do everything ourselves. We used to have a keyboard player but unfortunately a few weeks ago he just got afraid of touring and playing live and everything happening so quickly. At the last minute we had to work with sequences and also ear monitors so you can't just step on stage and play perfectly. Maybe if had more time and more people helping us we would be less nervous.
EDWIN: You did the first album all by yourself, with the second album are you going to do it all by yourself again?
NICOLAS: I view the process as a painter, when you write songs as a band you share the colours. But I want to have the complete picture, it's not an ego thing it's just that I have tho whole picture in my head. I just want to record it that way, without any static between me and the song. So I'm going to record the same way, I'm open to people giving me ideas but, once again, it's not an ego thing. When I close the doors and I pick up the guitar or the piano there is something happening and I can't even communicate with anybody else. It's my dream and my feelings and nobody else can teach me how it should sound. I started writing music without having an album in mind. I'm very very shy and a few years ago I would not have been able to talk to you, it's always been torturing me. I've been listening to music since I was very very young. At one point in my life I just needed to write and record songs, it just happened that way. Demians for me is not just a band for just recording music. It's just my life, it's a process, me being violent about myself, fighting against myself. All the songs on the record, except the last one "Sand", were written in 2002, so it's kind of an old record for me even though I'm still feeling close to it. But now I'm going on tour in October and probably touring Europe and the US early next year but I really want to go back to the studio and record a brand new record.
EDWIN: What was the kind of music you listened to when you were young?
NICOLAS: There was a huge change in my life when I was five. I used to go up to my older brother's bedroom when he was away, he had all these vinyls of Peter Gabriel, Rush, Genesis, the first Marillion and I was just listening to these 20 minute long songs with violin and guitar solo's and I was just amazed by that - it was my connection to something I could relate to. I thought for a long time that I had a problem because I never wanted to go out of my bedroom or connect with people and I was always afraid of everything, of talking to people. I don't even know how or why but it was there, it was something in there and I started listening to music and I found things I could relate to. I listen to many different things. I like ambient music like Steve Roach. I like very heavy stuff like cult of Luna and Mesjuggah. I like Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Metallica. I'm always trying to find new things I'm listening to anything I can find.
EDWIN: Your lyrics are so personal so why not in French?
NICOLAS: The music I listened to when I was a child was in English but I didn't understand English. I was hearing French music but I didn't feel anything and I was listening to English bands from my brothers collection and I didn't know what they were singing about but it was so interesting. I started learning English at a very, very early age and the words just come out that way. I don't sit down and write the lyrics, I close the doors and put myself in the dark and start the recorder and I sing. This is the way I do: I usually sing, and then a second time and then I take notes of what I said. There is almost nothing changed. Even if it would not make any sense to somebody else, I can relate to it, I know what it's about and I hope other people can connect to it. For the next record I'm going to do it the exact same way. I feel like I have something to say, even though I probably don't know why at the time. I'm just going to record it and let other people listen to it.
EDWIN: Is your success all over the world or mainly Holland, and what about France?
NICOLAS: For France it was very difficult, the album came out everywhere at the end of May except for France where it came out two or three weeks later. The name of the album was written badly and the price was too high. It was just a complete mess in France but everywhere else, England, Holland, Germany even Italy, Spain and the US. It was weird having messages from people thousand of miles away sending me pictures of them holding the CD and I couldn't even find the CD in stores in France.
EDWIN: How did you get signed by InsideOut?
NICOLAS: It was very interesting meeting with the guys from InsideOut. They are very open minded, they are not focusing on some etiquette, they are just interested in finding new bands. I'm nobody, I'm just someone playing music for fun and they heard the demo of Saphire on the internet. They were very interested in this and wanted to know if there was an album or if there was a live band.
EDWIN: And you have Steven Wilson saying he likes you?
NICOLAS: My manager met him when he was working with Gojira, a French metal band. They were playing the same night in the same city and their bus was parked next to the Porcupine Tree bus. Steven Wilson really liked Gojira and my manager gave him my Demians album, Steven expected something like Gojira. He listened to it and he was so surprised because it was completely different. He was curious about it and after a while he connected my manager saying he really liked it and asked if he could help with a record label.
EDWIN: Do you think your music is a bit like Porcupine Tree?
NICOLAS: I discovered Steven Wilson's music through No-Man, Bass Communion and from Porcupine Tree. I'm not trying to be the new Steven Wilson but he is one of the guys I respect the most. It was a great feeling to know that somebody I have been listening to for such a long time one day could listen to my record. If you read carefully in Steve Wilson's interviews he is always saying he doesn't like copycats. He is always criticized for being completely honest, if he doesn't like a band he is going to say it. I don't think he felt that my music was to close to Porcupine Trees and I think the same way. We have a completely different background, we have completely different goals and he is leading a direction I'm not going to take - Steven Wilson is the best at being Steven Wilson.
EDWIN: The last song you played "Sand" you introduced the song with the fact that it is about someone you loved and lost?
NICOLAS: That is something that is very personal and I'm trying to talk about it. This last song "Sand" is about someone I loved who died 10 years ago I needed to write this. The album was ready, the contract was signed but this song was not on it. I was on the plane coming back from the US and I called my manager: "I think there is something in me that needs to be said right now." And I wrote the song in the plane and I came back recorded it and I'm really proud of this song. It's a very impressive song for me and very hard to play it live.
EDWIN: Many thanks for your time.
Interview & Live Photos for DPRP by
DEMIANS ON TOUR WITH ANATHEMA:
08.10.2008 NL-Utrecht / Tivoli
09.10.2008 NL-Den Bosch / W2
10.10.2008 BE-Vosselaar / Biebob
11.10.2008 NL-Zoetermeer / Boerderij
12.10.2008 D-Aschaffenburg / Colos-Saal
13.10.2008 D-Bochum / Matrix
14.10.2008 D-Stuttgart / LKA Longhorn
16.10.2008 D-Erfurt / Centrum
17.10.2008 D-Berlin / Columbia Club
18.10.2008 D-Hamburg / Markthalle
19.10.2008 DK-Copenhagen / Pumpehuset
20.10.2008 PL-Warsaw / Proxima Club
21.10.2008 PL-Krakow / Klub Studio
22.10.2008 D-München / Backstage
23.10.2008 CH-Pratteln / Z7
24.10.2008 IT-Treviso / New Age
25.10.2008 IT-Milan / Rolling Stone
26.10.2008 IT-Rome / Alpheus
28.10.2008 AT-Vienna / Szene
29.10.2008 HU-Budapest / Avalon Club
31.10.2008 CH-Lausanne / Les Docks
02.11.2008 FR-Lille / Le Splendid
04.11.2008 GB-Manchester / Academy
05.11.2008 GB-Glasgow / Cathouse
06.11.2008 GB-Sheffield / Carling Academy
07.11.2008 GB-London / Carling Academy Islington
08.11.2008 GB-Birmingham / Barfly
09.11.2008 GB-Oxford / Zodiac
10.11.2008 GB-Portsmouth / Wedgewood Rooms
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DPRP Review of Demian's Building An Empire