by Niklas Göransson
Occidental hypnosis drawing from oriental trance, mesmerising ambience rooted in desert soil – a conversation with Michel Kirby of Belgium-based psychedelic metal collective Wolvennest.
– I believe us to have brought out something new, captivating, and fresh – musically as well as visually. Ever since our very first show we’ve been given great opportunities but have taken care to do everything step by step. We don’t want to overexpose the band and make ourselves out to be the new scene sensation, so we’re allowing people time to discover our music in their own time.
The initial seeds of WOLVENNEST were sown one evening in 2015 when Kirby began recording a few tracks on an old Yamaha cassette four-tracker, using a basic drum pattern played from his computer.
– By the end of the night I’d compiled an instrumental demo containing seven songs. Meanwhile, Corvus and I played in GOATCLOAKS – a project which, considering the shared three members as well as its hypnotic and musically repetitive sounds, could be said to have given birth to WOLVENNEST. Around the same time, I’d been doing a few rehearsals with Marc Debacker and, soon after, we realised that WOLVENNEST had grown beyond a mere studio project. Albin and Marthyna from DER BLUTHARSCH have been friends of mine for a long time, I’ve organised a few shows for them and we’d been discussing a musical collaboration for many years. WOLVENNEST is really a result of this alchemy between all members involved in the project.
Kirby says all band members come from vastly different artistic horizons, show great variety in musical preferences, and have already collaborated on past projects – all being factors of the greatest advantage to their evolution and creative process.
– I grew up with classic metal but am also passionate about neo-folk, Oriental music, and French singers. I run a record shop and probably discover something new every single day. Each of us has an interest in music but also films, soundtracks, and videos. Déhà produced and mixed both WOLVENNEST albums and is considered a member because he shares and understands our musical world. He also performed some voices on both the self-titled 2016 debut and the new album, “VOID”. We also have access to a home studio with plenty of time to record and without pressure from anyone. The recording process is like painting – you have a vision of how you want it to come out but a lot of ingredients are needed until it’s done. Likewise, you’ll need repeated listens to fully penetrate the musical spheres we offer. Every song on “VOID” has the presence of mesmerising and trance-inducing ingredients, even a track like “L’Heure Noire”, which includes singing by Alex from THE RUINS OF BEVERAST, is hypnotic. The fact that the lyrics are not real lyrics but onomatopoeia gives the incantation a very dark, occult, and ritual feeling. I was really impressed by his work.
Much of WOLVENNEST’s sonically psychedelic arsenal consists of techniques Kirby picked up through his enthusiasm for music of the Arabic tradition.
– Moroccan bands I listen to a lot are NASS EL GHIWANE and JIL JILALA…two of the most intense psychedelic trance Gnawa roots bands from the 60s and 70s. There are of course many others in this musical genre – check the 1981 movie documentary Trances, a fantastic film by Martin Scorsese. Actually, a more recent band I also appreciate is TINARIWEN. I also enjoy Oum Kalsoum, Fairuz as well as Sufi and ritual music. Musically, the trance comes from the performance’s rhythms, long introductions, and build-up. Their music touches straight to the heart of people from different generations, bringing them into a sort of frenzy and passion. You know, that’s the big difference between the Orient and Occident: young people over there are really close to their roots, they know the songs their parents and older generations were listening to. Music with far more meaning for them because it discusses their reality, life, and other sensitive subjects. It’s all still highly relevant. I love exploring the musical past, the tunes and words are driving people into a trance.
I read a passing mention that Kirby visited the Moroccan desert in early 2018, which appears to have been somewhat of a revelatory experience.
– The idea was to go to the M’Hamid El Ghizlane entrance of the desert where there was a musical event named Festival des nomads featuring traditional Gnawa, desert music, and more. We made the trip by car, starting from Rabat, but instead of taking the highway we decided to pass by cities such as Marrakech, Agadir, Essaouira, Zagora, Ouarzazate, and many small villages and mountains of Atlas. I believe we drove about 2,500 kilometres in total. When finally arriving in the desert of M’Hamid, we stayed three days in a bivouac – a desert tent camp – with its owner, M’bark. Each place we visited and all the local people we met were amazing, I plan another trip soon. Life is pure in the desert, it’s you and yourself; one of the most beautiful places that Mother Earth can offer. The stars in the night are so close over your head, the desert brings me a very positive intoxication. It clears your head from all materialistic dependencies.
The primary reason this conversation took place is because I spotted artwork by Bobby BeauSoleil while searching for something on Ván Records’ website. The cover caught my eye, I investigated the band further, and so here we are.
– I was already aware of Bobby BeauSoleil through his different albums, the soundtrack to Kenneth Anger‘s short film Lucifer Rising, and of course the Charles Manson connection. Our singer, Sharon Shazzula. knows Bobby personally and went to visit him in prison last summer. She also created a video for him. While working on the final mix, we were simultaneously searching for artwork. We all had several ideas but were never able to fully agree with one another. Sharon mentioned to Bobby that we still had no cover and he suggested we use a painting of his called UNI. While this work took me some time to fully appreciate, I now think it really embodies what you’ll find on “VOID”.
I noticed that “Ritual Lovers”, which Kirby describes as being about ‘that blood connection between two human beings and their unified soul’ is a homage to Selim Lemouchi, the late founder and guitarist of Dutch occult rock pioneers THE DEVIL’S BLOOD.
– The first time I met Selim and Sander – the original drummer of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD – was in Japan, I played an ARKANGEL show while they performed with JUDASVILLE. We partied hard together, lots of great memories, and then remained in contact afterwards. Selim offered me the first THE DEVIL’S BLOOD seven-inch and in 2011 we organised a festival for them in Brussels, A Thousand Lost Civilizations, along with URFAUST, ASCENSION, ONE TAIL ONE HEAD, MARE and others. Selim even offered me to come along on shows as support-act with one of my projects. He mentioned being a big fan of my band LENGTH OF TIME. I always considered Selim to be one of the greatest guitar players I ever met; true in soul and spirit. What he created with THE DEVIL’S BLOOD is just amazing. He brought the entire occult heavy rock music from the 60s and 70s back on the map with personal and new ‘codes’, giving the metal scene a breath of fresh air. Selim was a good friend with a pure heart. Also, his sister Farida with her magical voice captivates everybody during shows and on each record they created together.
I’ve been unable to find any lyrics, including the aforementioned, so can you tell me what WOLVENNEST’s primary thematic concepts are?
– Like many others I write mainly based on personal experiences. Usually, I start working on lyrics around a word or sentence I’ve read in some book or an article, or that I’ve heard in movie dialogue. You can give several vastly different meanings to a word. Sometimes we give temporary titles to new songs we’re working on in studio and I write lyrics around that idea. For example, we’re using the name “Vortex” for one of our future songs – the word inspires me, it sounds like either a woman’s nickname or some drug.
On that note, a friend of mine who heard “VOID” immediately remarked to me that there must’ve been significant intake of mind-warping compounds behind this music. As it turns out, he was wrong.
– We didn’t use any drugs or other substances to compose either “VOID” or the first album. I think each musician who wants to use any kind of substances to create an album is free to do so but I heard some results of songs recorded by friends under the influence of drugs and it was really pity. The day after they said, ‘Don’t listen, we were totally stoned!’ I sincerely doubt these tales about great albums by big major bands supposedly composed under influence, some might be true but most are totally bullshit stories for promotion.
What’s next for WOLVENNEST?
– We’ve received a lot of offers for festival and shows in 2019 – Roadburn, House of the Holy, VOIDfest, A Thousand Lost Civilizations, and more. We’ve been working on some fresh material and plan a new release which will be available at Roadburn 2019.