Chuck Schuldiner Project

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Interview with A.L from Cowards (English Translation)

After their outstanding set at the Throatruiner festival, which celebrated the labels’ 5 year of existence, I got the opportunity to sit down and chat with the lead guitarist and founding member of Cowards to talk about the band, their freshly released sophomore album as well as their stance regarding their affiliations as a hardcore act from Paris.

-          What are your impressions on the set you just played tonight?
It was a little bit complicated, since we had a drummer tonight filling in for our actual drummer who’s playing a show with another band. There were a few tough moments but overall he did a good job. It wasn’t too bad.

-          Could you tell us a little about your relationship with Throatruiner records and how you came to get signed by them?
It’s a fairly simple story. After  3 years  I still hadn’t found a band, so I started a new one, we started recording our material which we then showed to Matthias (the head of Throatruiner) and he told us “this is dope, I’ll release it”. He released our stuff and we’ve been obliged to stay a real band ever since *laugh*.

-          You’ve just put out your sophomore album, titled “Rise to Infamy”. Were there any notable changes regarding your sound, your approach to writing… compared to you previous record?
What changed this time around is that this album is our first real album as a band, as 5 guys who became a band. It was a real collective effort, we tried and I think we succeeded in pushing the envelope when it came to achieving the sound we were after.

-          So you’re a band based in Paris. Do you guys identify yourselves as being part of a Parisian Hardcore scene?
We’ve always felt a little bit a little bit outside of all of that, we definitely don’t have that kind of approach. We don’t defend the “scene spirit”, we don’t defend any Hardcore family” or anything like that. We’ve got a much more negative approach. We do have friends, but we don’t have that many and we don’t suck people’s dicks if we don’t like them. With that being said, there are loads of active people in Paris who try to keep a scene alive, but it’s tough. Take for exemple a guy like Benoit Longueville, who formed heaps of bands: he started Providence, he did Black Spirals… He’s got a new band started every 6 months, the dude just won’t stop. He books lots of shows, all of the more “traditional” hardcore bands, he brings loads of bands from the US… he puts this incredible amount of effort into doing all of that, yet he often tells me that he feels like a thankless job. On one hand I feel like telling him “do you ever go to see a band you don’t like? Of course not”. We’re not the most supportive band out there; you won’t see us very often at shows, simply because there aren’t that many bands that we like. On the other hand, if there’s a band playing that we happen to like, we’ll go.

-          Regarding the Hardcore scene in general, do you have a more positive or negative outlook on its evolution since you were first introduced to it?
I’m the wrong person to be asked this question, because people call us a hardcore band but we’re not people from the hardcore scene. I don’t really know that scene. Back in the day when I used to play in Hangman’s Chair, we did tour a lot with Archangel , so  I did see some of the hardcore scene, but I wouldn’t be able to talk about it, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to give my opinion.

-          In that case, which musical genre or “scene” do you identify with the most?
If we HAD to identify with a particular scene, I’d say it’d be the H8000 scene from Belgium or Holy Terror with Integrity, Gehenna… all of those bands. Bands that play music with saturated guitars, with scream and most importantly pissed off. To  me, to us, you simply can’t make this kind of music if you aren’t pissed off at anything, it wouldn’t make any sense. You can’t play this kind of music in a positive way. I don’t mind people who play positive music, but just don’t put a saturated guitar and a dude screaming, it makes no sense. Play some blues, folk… anything you want really. We love rap music, pop, and all kinds of music. Positivity doesn’t bother us, just not in Hardcore music.

-          Speaking of which, I did pick up some musical influences in your music from another hardcore act from Paris, one of the figureheads of French Hardcore music… (A.L. grins and lets out a small sigh)… I’m talking off course about Kickback…
Who? *laugh*

-          Is there a certain connection to be done between both bands in terms of influence?
I think it’s pretty obvious, there’s no denying it, however that is not to  say that we’re diehard Kickback fans. We only like one album by Kickback, and that album is No Surrender. To us, to most of us,  that record is a sort of masterpiece that is kind of on its own, an album they released after 10 years of absence, with a dude who came from the black metal scene, where they made some sort of a completely insane hybrid. I found it simply outstanding. Furthermore, they had a top-notch lineup: the drummer, Hervé Goardou from Judoboy is a killer on that album. He did half of the work. As for Damien, his riffs are absolutely insane. Yes, we do love one album by Kickback, and yes we did draw quite a bit of influence from it, but we’re limiting ourselves to simply playing Kickback’s music. Furthermore, I remember when that album came out I was thinking to myself “THAT’s the music I’ve been trying to play for such a long time without ever having found my crew”. With Cowards I’ve finally found my crew, and that is what we did. So yes we do take a lot of things from them, on a side note there are lots of interviews with Stephen that I find really interesting. There a lot of things where I agree with him, but there are also a lot of aspects where I happen to strongly disagree with him.

-          Any examples?
I find it very interesting that, in some of his more recent interviews since he moved to Thailand, that he talks about Buddhism. He talks about the things that strike him in Buddhism and the aspects that don’t. That, for example, is part of the things I had been thinking for a very long time. I love Buddhism, I find it extremely interesting, but you can’t take all of the aspects of Buddhism. Then there’s the fact that he considers himself as a sort of “active nihilist”. I find it pretty funny, but you simply can’t mix nihilism and being active. You either hate everything, or you defend some things. Most importantly there’s a value that we defend in Cowards, something you might not be able to tell from the music we play, it’s something we stole from Crowbar: it’s love.
You can’t have so much hate without loving just as much. We talk about things we hate, but what it implies is that we love lots of other things, loads of other people. We love individuals but we hate the masses.
-          To finish off this interview: could you name some of your favorite albums, one of your favorite movies and one of your favorite books?
Albums: I love this compilation by Gehenna (the US band) called The War of the sons of light and the Sunds of Darkness. It’s a compilation with a bunch of songs with different productions.
As to more recent stuff, I love Blind to Faith, a Belgian band with the same kind of destructive spirit… kind of like Eyehategod but much more fierce.

Movies:  I love Jacob’s Ladder, Indian Runner, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I like movies that start off well and end very badly.

Books: One of the last books that really made an impression on me was a collection of short stories by Lovecraft, because he has an amazing writing style. It was published by Penguin Books and what’s cool is that you’ve got his collection entire sort stories sorted by order of publication, which allow you to see how his writing evolved from one story to the next. He doesn’t renew his ideas all that much, but he changes a few things here and there and towards the end he ends up writing completely crazy stuff.

-          Yeah, he went through different phases during his career: his “macabre” phase, the dream cycle phase and of course the Cthulhu mythos. I happen to have also read Lovecrafts’ entire bibliography!
Ah well I don’t know if you read it, but to also add to that there’s also Michel Houellebecq’s thesis on Lovecraft, which is really interesting!

-          I haven’t read it.
He draws parallels between the different periods in Lovecraft’s live and his writing. You start to realize that every time he talks about a monster, it’s usually just plain racism because he was under the impression that immigrants were stealing all of his potential jobs. Then, later on, when he leaves New York to return to Providence, he suddenly becomes way less racist.

-          Thank you very much for granting us this interview!
My pleasure.
Interview conducted and translated from french by Robin Ono

A huge thank you goes out to A.L, to Cowards, to Matthias Jungbluth as well as everyone involved at Throatruiner fest!

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