[ThisInterview has been recorderd on February 5th, 2021 through Skype upon the release of Harakiri For The Sky’s new album, Maere, which is set to be out on February 19th, 2021 through AOP Records]
[Cette transcription est aussi disponible en Français]
Ars-Goetia: Today we are joined by Matthias from Harakiri For the Sky, hello!
Matthias: Hello! Nice talking to you.
A-G: Yeah, appreciated. I’m very glad to have you in this interview for Ars Goetia Webzine. So we’ve chatted a bit off before starting the interview, you said to me that you were alright: I am also, that’s perfect!
M.S.: Perfect yeah! You know, as alright as you can be in these times.
A-G: Sure, this is the biggest subject at the moment and we’ll have an occasion to talk about that… So maybe, for those who don’t know what Harakiri For the Sky is, who you are, can you maybe give us a bit of presentation of the project, yourself, what you do in Harakiri…
M.S.: I’m Matthias, I write all the music and play the strings, guitars and bass, and live, the lead guitar. We are a two-men project, J.J, our singer, writes all the lyrics. That’s how we compose, how we function on an album. We have three additional live members to play concerts. We play, I’d say, metal, melancholic metal, black metal, however you want to call it. Best to just listen and make your own picture!
A-G: Yeah, I don’t like all the “labelling stuff” and everything… Sure it helps to organize music and find what you like in this manner, but each artist is a different sound and a different mix of emotions. So, it’s better to just listen to what the artist produces.
M.S.: Exactly, and I think… Of course, I don’t have a problem when we’re labeled “Post-Black Metal”, “Atmospheric-Black Metal”, but I think it’s also a bit limiting because there are so many bands with so many great influences and it just doesn’t cover it, to label it in just one small subgenre. As you said, it’s nice to have a first introduction to a new thing, maybe you’ll like the band because there are similar bands, but often it doesn’t describe the whole picture.
A-G: Speaking of influences, what are yours and your colleague’s?
M.S.: J.J. is more into classic Black Metal as well as hardcore, melodic hardcore and lots of post-rock bands… He knows like a thousand bands that I’ve never heard about. For me, personally, I started as a very young kid to listen… Actually, my first metal band was In Flames. I got this CD from my older cousin when I was like eight years old, and that got me hooked instantly so I kind of discovered Black Metal through Melodic Death Metal. I used to listen to a lot of Deftones and stuff like that. It’s a very colorful mix of that we have between us.
A-G: Oh, so you were a Neo-Metal kid?
M.S.: Yes, to a certain extent. And I still love that stuff to be honest. Why not?
A-G: I won’t talk about it that much because on Ars-Goetia, we’re really centered around Black, Death, Grindcore and all underground Metal. But yeah, Neo Metal was pretty huge when I started listening to the genre, and influenced me [even] until this day in I write, what material I write.
M.S.: Yeah! I mean, let’s be honest, Deftones also has a lot of post-rock influences and is quite atmospheric so… And yeah, on the other hand for example, Grindcore is absolutely nothing for me. It’s a music that I just don’t understand.
A-G: Yeah, it depends, it’s starting to grow on me, to be honest.
M.S: Maybe there will be a time I’ll learn to appreciate it but at the moment it’s just…
A-G: Sure, music is a journey
M.S.: Exactly, never say never.
A-G: Harakiri is approaching ten years right now I believe?
M.S: Yeah man, time flies! Doesn’t seem that long.
A-G: Where was I ten years ago? I was just getting into metal so… *giggles*
M.S.: It’s a good age to get into metal because you bring a certain… Back then I was so incredibly enthusiastic. At this age, back then, I went to record stores and listened to the CDs on the headphones… You had to really decide which cd to buy with the little pocket money you had. It was actually a special time: these days it’s a bit tougher when you can listen to millions of songs on Spotify, you just don’t know what to choose and you don’t have time to listen to everything. I think that changed a bit. I miss those times a little bit to be honest.
A-G: I didn’t know those days as much as you did maybe, because when I was getting into metal, Spotify was starting to democratize and other services likes Deezer and all.
M.S.: Yeah, that’s our age gap…
A-G: Those are two different periods. I guess I had the privilege of having a lot of choice when I started listening to metal, which led me to Black Metal pretty quickly I would guess… So, you told me that you started with more melodic stuff and I think that those influences find their way into Harakiri’s music, especially in this new album. I had written some notes about some melodic sections in the album but I can’t seem to find them in my document right now so maybe I’ll let you talk about it?
M.S.: You know, I think in the end, when you write music, I guess you get subconsciously influenced by everything around you so… Also, the music that you listen to, […] for example for some period of time you listen to more indie-rock or grunge, then probably those will show in the songwriting, I guess. Lately I was listening to more rock stuff and that’s probably also in the newer songs. I had some new influences.
A-G: I felt like, while listening to Maere, there were some parts, some aspects of Maere, that were reminiscent of your earlier stuff. I felt like pain, which I believe is a driving force of some of Harakiri’s music, was more vivid and unfiltered like in your first two records whereas, especially in III: Trauma and Arson, it was maybe a bit more subdued or contained maybe. A more mature take on pain and all that gravitates around it, maybe more personal also. I felt like you were going back to the roots where pain really shines through (that’s a weird way of putting it, but I think you get the point).
M.S.: Definitely. It’s interesting that you say it, because when we started it was all completely fresh, so maybe it was more unfiltered. Of course, you know, all this despair and anger, the bad things, it was always an important topic for us, and we use it all as, if you will, a kind of self-therapy maybe.
And of course, when you start fresh with something like that, then it’s just purely honest and you just write down what comes to your mind. Then with the third and fourth albums, you have second-thoughts, like “Does that sound too similar to the albums before?” for example, and all the stuff like that. I think that by now with the fifth album, we just matured that far, that we don’t have that fear anymore, and we don’t have the fear to implement other influences, so maybe that’s why it seems purer again, if that makes sense to you. *giggles*
A-G: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense actually. As I said earlier, music is a journey, and I believe that writing music is an even tougher journey than listening to music because in the meantime you’re discovering new stuff by listening to new influences that you incorporate into your music. But, at the same time, you’re maturing in the way of writing, maybe acquiring more technique…
M.S.: Yeah, exactly.
A-G: Or even just [developing] new ideas.
M.S.: The thing is, I don’t want to say that III : Trauma is less personal because it’s not at all. Actually, for J.J., Trauma was very personal in the topics he dealt with. As with the lyrics that he doesn’t write that subtle anymore and, you know, [he] has more nice mental force than before, and it’s for the songwriting I guess, as mentioned. So, it was all personal, we never tried to change something, it was intuitive, but maybe we just learned to get better at that, and that’s exactly the point.
A-G: I’m not saying that it wasn’t personal but, it was maybe more contained… I don’t know if you get what I’m trying to says because I maybe don’t have all the terms, but more subdued and intimate, less explosive.
M.S.: You know it’s tough to answer because it’s already, I mean… Finding your style is a journey and trying some things is also part of it.
A-G: What, would you say, was the main motivation or inspiration to create Maere, which is maybe your most accomplished work? I believe [that] this is the most complete album you’ve put out, in my sense.
M.S.: Main inspiration… You know, as a musician, you are always thriving to create new music, and it doesn’t have to be one specific influence. It is just, always a certain timeframe of our lives, with everything included: It kinda mirrors what we write. You know, in the two years we have to write an album, more or less, there are a lot of good and bad things happening. What comes out in the end is like the summary of everything, it’s what you’re hearing. So, I couldn’t name one specific incident that drove me to write many songs at one little period of time, I couldn’t say anything like that.
A-G: Yeah, in the broader sense, a two years period is, especially right-now, rich in events. You can maybe talk to us about the production process of Maere? You were saying to me, off-interview, that you had some issues with Neige [from Alcest] coming to record because of the lockdowns in France…
M.S.: He didn’t record with us, he was recording in France and sending us the tracks. But still, he couldn’t record then because in his flat in Paris apparently, it’s not possible. But anyhow, the whole process was not too different to the albums before, the whole songwriting process is the same: I record pre-production, I send it to J.J., he already has fragments of lyrics he writes before and then, he just fits [them] onto the songs. Then we sit together and see how it works out, which lyrics fit best to what song, and that’s when we go to the studio and record. With Karim, our session drummer, it’s practically the same: I send him drum tracks, he has one month to learn them, we go to the studio and he records them. It’s a pretty boring process actually, but for me [it] is not. We don’t have special creative sessions in the studio where new stuff comes out: it’s all pretty matured already.
A-G: I find it pretty interesting to see how different artists have different ways of coming up with new material.
M.S.: I mean, there are many bands that just are in the rehearsal space together, they chat and the songs progress from that. That can work to but as we are only two members, and I’m also pretty picky about the stuff that I write, I want to have it on the record exactly like that so… Yeah it is a huge difference in the process. But you know, all the different methods can lead to a good thing in the end, why not? Everyone should do the way they see fits best.
A-G: So, you’re kind of a perfectionist?
M.S.: Well, I wouldn’t say perfectionist, but you know, when I write a part and already have it resonating in my head all the time, I couldn’t bear a change to it. It’s the same with the drums. [For] some parts, Karim has ideas for the drum fills for example, but then there are parts [where] it has to be exactly like I wrote it. Maybe a bit of a perfectionist, yeah, to a certain extent.
A-G: I’m not [saying it] in the negative sense of the term, but I guess that’s one of the downsides that come with writing such personal music: You may want to have that much control over it.
M.S.: I mean, when you have to make five people in the band happy, and everyone wants to bring in their ideas, it’s natural that maybe sometimes there’s a clash: Somebody wants his idea exactly like that and another person has another idea, then maybe it can turn into a problem. That’s something that we don’t have.
A-G: [About] the collaborations with Neige or the singer from Garea, which I believe is featured on “Sliver Needle – Golden Dawn” …
M.S.: Gaerea, you know, it’s a really cool band in my opinion and, the fun fact is, I knew the guys already before I knew the band since I spent quite a lot of time in Portugal and got to know them there. Their guitar player, he also does film for festivals and I met him there like three years back when he was filming for a festival in the south of Portugal. We met there in 2017, became friends and then, as I heard the new album, I was really impressed with the boys and thought it might be a good addition to the song. The two singers doubling up and singing like: one sings one part and the other sings the other part. We just tried it out and I really liked it.
A-G: I also really, really like Gaerea, I think they are putting out great stuff recently so I can see why you wanted to feature them on Maere… How did the Placebo cover come through as an idea? Why did you want to put it on this album?
M.S.: As I told you, I listen to a lot of alternative rock like, Deftones and Placebo as well for example. I mean, I’m a fan since I’m a kid practically and I always wanted to do a song because I think they have a sort of atmosphere that really works also for us when we cover it in our style. Like, the criteria for us when we cover a song is: usually we don’t want to do something that is already in the same style. We don’t want to cover Black Metal songs for example. With Placebo, I think they have, in many songs, this same melancholic atmosphere. Also, the lyrics fit pretty good with what we usually do. This song especially also has a lot of meaning to J.J., to our singer. So, I wanted to do something from Placebo and had like three songs, and he said: “This one, definitely “Song to say goodbye”.”, because he connects a lot with this song. So, it was not a tough choice for us this time to figure out.
A-G.: I think it’s a perfect match for your style. I was not big into rock stuff before, so I discovered the original version through your cover, and it almost drove me to tears when I read the lyrics and listened to the original version. Yours was very powerful but then, the Placebo stuff adds that softness that comes with what’s spoken about in the lyrics and, that was a shock. *giggles*
M.S.: You know, you don’t always need brutal drumming and harsh guitars for a song to be intense. That’s something that is really important to me also. That’s why so many rock songs, or singer/songwriter songs even, would work great as cover versions from us, I think. Because of the melodies and content, you know, it works for sure in different styles. Just because it’s intense music.
A-G: I get what you’re saying. So, may I stretch that a bit further and [ask]: Will there be more covers in Harakiri’s stuff?
M.S.: You know, we did it almost on every album, I think we didn’t do it just on III: Trauma, but you know it became like a tradition. There are lots of songs we both liken and would try out in our style, so I would think it’s safe to say that probably in the next album we will do a cover again but I can’t say what.
A-G: Sure, it’s part of the creative process to determine this kind of stuff.
M.S.: We didn’t talk about that yet…
A-G: After all, Maere isn’t officially out yet.
M.S.: Yeah, we switched already two times, we wanted to release it in September, but it was absolutely impossible because of the pressing plan and everything. And then, even for the first official release date in January, they couldn’t deliver the vinyls and everything so we had to switch it again because [if] people pre-order something and they receive it one month later, they would be unhappy, so we had to switch the whole release schedule to a bit later. But now, finally, on February 19th, it will be out.
A-G: Wasn’t that a bit frustrating for you?
M.S.: I mean yeah, but what can you do? It is how it is; you can’t change that. Sometimes you have to live with things you cannot change.
A-G: And I think, it’s time for us to wrap this interview for Ars-Goetia, and I’ll say thank you to our listeners and our readers. See you next time for the review of Maere, when it’s finally coming out!
M.S.: Perfect, it was very nice talking to you, and I wish you a great evening.