Thanks so much for taking the time Olivier!
That’s simply normal 😉 . Same to you 😉
So first of all tell us something about Almøst Human, the band members, how you met up and decided to form the band.
Well, the winners are …
Ben Plüss … Vocal
Saral Zahnd … Bass
Rosario Fullone … Drums
Gilles Bonzon … Guitar
And yours truly … Guitar and Blablabla.
Rosario and I played in a band called Clean Dirt with the current singer of Gotthard. But this was before the appearance of dinosaurs… I must have been a fern at most back then.
The other members are the fruit of meetings, recommendations, friendships, auditions.
But … promise, there was no plot to form the band and coat the entire planet with evil riffs. Nor to establish forever the domination of cats on our world … that’s already been done for a long time.
ASSOCIATING THE PECULIAR TECHNIQUE OF EXTREME METAL WITH THE ENERGY OF ROCK MUSIC, ALMØST HUMAN KEEPS FOCUS ON MELODY AND EMOTION AT LARGE – is a fitting description. Which bands/musicians are your main inspiration?
Thank you … 😉
I guess I’m not as open-minded as I think I am, but I try to refine it on a regular basis.
The Beatles remain one of my major influences, especially the period 1967 – 1970. I see a lot of creativity, curiosity. given the existing technology at the time. A great sense of melody and musical arrangements, preventing songs from being composed in an identical format.
As for the Metal world, I don’t care about styles … if the music touches me, it’s the most important. I also remain aware that in case of rejection, I will have to listen longer to a band or a music in order to overcome my initial prejudices.
There are some very interesting studies on how we listen to music, especially when it’s new to us. I think it’s important for me to understand these mechanisms. As a listener, but also as a composer.
Over time, I focus more on what I can learn from other musicians, bands or other musical styles. Whether it is about riffs, lines of songs, sounds, arrangements, structures of pieces or design, merchandising, videos, … no matter. I know that I can benefit from the experience of others. All these people have knowledge that I don’t have … the same for their careers, with all the concessions they can involve.
Traditional music, instruments are all sources of inspiration. The same applies to any daily event, a priori banal, conscious or not, that permeates us.
The name of your debut album XS2XTC immediately got me into thinking about the meaning of the letters/number. I came up with excess to extasy. Is it your intention that everyone should make up their own minds about it? Which meaning has it for you?
That everyone has their own opinion is inevitable. So I don’t have to worry about that. Perhaps sometimes it would be better if we didn’t erect them as walls of certainty. But I fully admit that this is not an easy exercise. Don’t we need reassurance?
world; the illusion of a permanent, infinite and unfettered enjoyment. The word “ecstasy” can be used to describe a drug as well as an experience of bliss beyond words, even spiritual or mystical.
As for the path to happiness, it becomes so complicated that we forget to be happy on a daily basis. Are we able to appreciate the fact that we are alive every day, we who are so fragile?
Today, aren’t our lives increasingly digitised, in the form of 0’s and 1’s, of abstract signs? Numbers, letters, barcodes identify us as customers, policyholders, taxpayers, pseudonyms, avatars, etc… We are statistics, variables to be adjusted, target consumers; data to be processed, exploited, costs to be reduced.
And in many situations, we give codes or data to be identified, authenticated.
So I used these letters as a shortcut, like our shrinking ways of thinking, to illustrate this quest for happiness, which also becomes distant and disembodied. Coming from the world of graphic arts, I have combined the numbers 2 and 4 into a single sign resembling the astronomical and astrological symbol of Jupiter.
In English, XS2XTC or XS4XTC = excess to ecstasy or excess for exctasy. So, why not break the codes a bit and give this album two possible titles?
The album cover for me represents the attempt to free myself from my own or imposed constraints. What message do you see in it?
Bravo, it’s an interesting representation!!! 🙂 I see in it more a deep questioning than a message…
First of all, the term “constraints” that you use is important. The perception of a problem is relative and what I consider as a “constraint”, will not necessarily be for you.
Then, I believe that the world in which we live is conditioned by a set of dynamic phenomena or processes. They are interdependent, interacting, in continuous transformation, even if these changes are imperceptible. It is the same for us because we are a part of this world.
So, can we be free not to breathe or drink? Not for very long it seems to me? Living in a world that would be for us without constraints seems totally illusory? And what would be the purpose? To be free of ALL constraints? Nothing that could bother us, frustrate us? But is this the guarantee of a permanent and unlimited happiness? And if everything is impermanent by nature, we would have to be able to freeze eternally all the phenomena, thus making impossible any change… but what are our desires by nature?… changing. And how can we satisfy about eight billion people whose desires are likely to clash?
Is it also possible to draw a clear line between our constraints and those that we see as outside ourselves? I’m not sure, because even our genes can be turned on or off under the influence of our environment. Of course, it is convenient to distinguish between what seems to belong to us and what we consider to be foreign to us. By habit, identifying circumstances or people responsible for our problems prevents us from questioning ourselves.
If we react with rejection and aggression instead, we anchor these patterns of thought and action in our daily lives. they can be the engine that serves as our automatic pilot; the one that chains us and reinforces habits that do more harm than good.
Your album came out short before the ongoing pandemic. Did you have the chance to play some concerts since the release?
Yes, if I remember correctly … three concerts in Switzerland (the Undertown in Geneva, Le Port-Franc in Sion and the CormoRock Festival in Cormoret). Also a live radio appearance (Couleur 3).
But this pandemic allowed me to focus on music production and try to better understand the work of sound engineers and producers and thus provide them with better services and resources. A good mix is not made without good material from the start. So you might as well know what they need to work well.
Tell us something about the songwriting process – how does it work in your band? Who writes the melodies/lyrics?
For the LP and the EP, I brought most of the basic lyrics and musical ideas. The drummer (Rosario) and our former bass player (Jan Peyer) brought several ideas for Divine Comedy. Chris Matthey, who produced both albums, composed most of Each Of Us. He also composed or arranged several parts on songs.
Concerning the vocals, most of the translations are the work of a friend (Jacques Marion). The musical setting of the texts is the fruit of the work and the collaboration between our singer, Seb Maeder (brother of the singer of Gotthard) andChris Matthey and myself. Same process for the vocal lines.
Usually, when I start to really compose a song, I already have a text written and translated into English by someone much more competent than me in this language.
I also already have some musical ideas, riffs, that I think will help reinforce the text, give it depth. The vocal lines will also contribute to this.
It’s a long process of research, of trying things out, but I think that’s the way to expand creativity, by feeding it through curiosity.
Your lyrics are about the meaning of life, the social and economic problems, current issues like the songs „Warpigs“ and „Naked Now“. Even you wrote them some years ago they couldn’t have been more topical right now. What are your feelings when you play them on stage?
Ah … on stage … I try above all not to make too many false notes. Also avoid accidentally disfiguring another member of the band with my guitar neck.
I think that our singer is the one who is most impressed by the meaning of the texts during our stage performances. I will ask him the question.:-)
For the news of our songs, I think there is the form and the background. While the former can be approached with contemporary examples, the latter remains timeless.
The problems discussed in Warpigs and Naked Now have not, alas, appeared recently. Cynically, sending people to be killed in the name of an ideology under the guise of patriotism or legitimizing torture in the name of good is nothing new. Social problems, economic problems, … are they not the manifestation or the expression of our belief systems? The daily embodiment of our vision of the world and ourselves?
For example, Alexander the Great is considered a brilliant strategist. But did his empire miraculously form at his will? No. Without his soldiers, nothing would have been possible. They also refused to continue further, while they were in India, in -326 BC.
Many problems in the world are based on the fact that we aren’t 100 % human we are „Almøst Human“. Did you choose your band name because of that?
The name of the band was proposed by a former drummer of the band, Pascal Ranzoni who officiates in Now or Never. He is a big fan of Kiss and when he proposed this name, I saw very quickly the possibility of questioning our condition as human beings.
Pascal … thanks for your great idea!!!
In my opinion, our misperception of reality is partly at the root of our problems. Indeed, what we identify as problematic depends on our limited and conditioned view of a situation. And when we try to solve these problems, we inevitably create others that will appear sooner or later.
You played a gig in Nepal, the „Silence Festival“. How did you come up with that and did this experience influence your personal lifestyle?
We had the opportunity and the chance to perform there thanks to Ben, our singer. He knows the organizer, an excellent Nepalese guitarist who has been in Switzerland and plays in Underside.
I can’t speak for the rest of the band, but I think it’s safe to say that our singer has made some great friendships in that country.
For myself, I had been to Nepal several times for meditation teachings, either in Kathmandu (the capital), not far from there or in other parts of the country.
I enjoyed the diversity and richness of the faces there and being in the presence of other cultures can only be a source of teaching and questioning. This, on our own way of living and apprehending the world and ourselves. In a country like Nepal, we can be in direct contact with poverty. Television and the direct view of another human being are two worlds.
Travelling so far was also a very interesting lesson. I thought about the musicians who travel all those kilometres from one country to another, changing continents. There is a lot of waiting (in airports, for example) and I have deduced that you have to know how to keep yourself busy, rest, have a good lifestyle. Otherwise, it can be tempting to take all sorts of stimulants to keep going and kill time.
You are in the Swiss Metal Battle Final for playing on the next Wacken Open Air. I guess that’s every metal band’s dream to play there. Which festivals did you already play?
Yes, it is indeed a dream. We passed the selections and won a semi-final, which is already very positive because the other bands were very good.
But, above all, for me, to play on stage, it is to have the same attitude and the same motivation whatever the place and the number of present listeners. Being on stage is a chance, an opportunity to meet the public and people more experienced than me in the music business.
Almøst Human had the pleasure to play mainly in Switzerland at the Abyss Festival, Metal Assault Festival, Greenfield Festival, 70 Grams of Metal, Ma Région a du talent and the Silence Festival III in Nepal.
Thanks again to all the people who organized these events.
Playing concerts, writing new songs – what do you want to focus on this year?
In May we will have the chance to play in the Swiss final of the Battle of the Bands. A one in four chance to play at the legendary Wacken … wow. We will also have the opportunity to perform in Lorrach at the Blood Battle Festival in order to win our place at the Baden im Blut Festival.
There are also gigs planned in Switzerland with Loudblast (FR) and Mercyless (FR) and Triptykon.
For my part, I’m in the process of writing the basic lyrics and have started compiling musical ideas. The goal is to write new songs.
Besides music do you have other interests/hobbies to get your mind off in your freetime?
Music takes up a lot of time, especially when you’re trying to get a band going. Even more so if it’s an amateur band. It involves having a global vision that covers many subjects and areas of expertise. It’s important to identify what partners outside the band (such as a sound engineer or a label) expect from me. This allows me to be more clear and coherent in terms of choices and to assume them.
Improving my skills in composition and musical writing occupies a part of my time. Playing, trying out different sounds or programs, appreciating the work of other songwriters are sources of inspiration as well as resourcefulness. I could spend all my days there as the possibilities are infinite and allow me to push the limits of my imagination.
Otherwise, I am the cook at home. It’s another way to create and learn from people far more skilled and talented than me. I also enjoy spending time with our cats and communicating with them.
I am also interested in history, human behavioral sciences, ethology or meditative approaches. Introspection is often disturbing and sometimes painful, but it allows us to glimpse the strength of our illusions. Moreover, with my background in graphic arts, I can merge my different interests to try to propose a deep musical vision.
Is there something else you want to tell your fans?
A big thank you to everyone for taking the time to read me. In case of a possible headache, I don’t provide a pallet of beer as compensation … sorry, I have to water my pack of cats first.
You can communicate with us on our social networks and we will be happy to answer your questions, remarks or comments.
I wish you all health, prosperity and longevity.
Almøst Human | Olivier.