The Distrolution / Distrolution Merch team had the chance to go to the Hellfest festival from June 19th to 26th 2022. On the program, concerts, meetings… and several interviews, which you can find every week in FR version on Distrolution Merch and in EN version on Distrolution! Discover without further delay our interview with Fractal Universe!
Fractal Universe – Photo by L’Oeil de Verre
Hi Fractal Universe. Would it be possible, to start this interview, to introduce yourselves and your band ?
Hugo: Yes, of course! I’m Hugo, I play the guitar and I do backing vocals in Fractal Universe. Do you want me to introduce the band afterwards, or…?
Hugo: Fractal Universe is progressive death metal band. We come from the North East of France. We formed at the end of 2014. We released a debut EP in 2015 and since then, there have been three albums. We released our third one about a year ago. A year ago today, actually. One year ago today via Metal Blade Records. We like to play a rather technical metal and at the same time, which will bring influences from everywhere: jazz, classical music, prog rock obviously… Colors that we don’t necessarily see often in metal, which is quite codified, and that’s it!
Thank you! So, I’m letting the other members introduce themselves.
Val: I’m Val, I’m the bass player of Fractal Universe and I do backing vocals too.
Vince: I’m Vince, so guitar, vocals and saxophone.
Clément: I’m Clément and I play drums!
We meet in this mythical place that is the Hellfest Festival. How does it feel to play in such an emblematic festival?
Hugo: It was so good! (laughs) It was really too good! We played yesterday, at 12:15 on the Altar and honestly we did not expect… We were surprised to see so many people in front of us, who didn’t come just to pass. They came for us, they were excited, you know! It was amazing! The audience was very responsive, very warm and even after the set, a lot of positive feedback from different people who said it was very good, great sound. And the concert itself… Well, great! The reception of Hellfest and the team on the Altar was really great, very efficient and very nice people too, so it was comfortable, not stressful at all and that was it. Very good, great experience!
When you discovered the complete program of the second weekend, was there a band you absolutely did not want to miss?
Clément: Yeah, Katatonia, I’m bummed! (laughs) They cancelled yesterday, so…
Vince: For me, there are so many, but there is one that I never had the opportunity to see and that I will see tomorrow, it’s Metallica! Not very original, I know, but I was a fan since my early teens and I never had the opportunity to see them. This will be the perfect opportunity!
Val: I’m really looking forward to see Igorrr, because it’s a band I’ve been following for many years and now, with all the lineup changes, I’m curious to see what it’s going to be like! There’s also Myrkur, who is much more calm, but I’ve never seen her and I love what she does, so I’m waiting to see what it’ll be like live!
Hugo: Obscura was playing last night, same thing, it was their concert with their new lineup, at least in Europe. Unfortunately they have some problems, but I was happy to see their new musicians, their new old musicians for those who follow the story, except the drummer, but I could see this concert, so I was quite happy. And then today, I’m looking forward to see Igorrr. And Nine Inch Nails who played last night too, which was a discovery for me and a huge slap in the face! Incredible experience!
You said it earlier, during the presentation of the band. You are signed to Metal Blade Records. How did you attract the attention of such a big foreign label and how did this collaboration happen?
Clément: There was a person who worked there who knew us. We wrote to him on Twitter and that’s how it happened! It’s true! (laughs) I sent him a personal message and he answered me that he wanted to hear the second album. He listened to it and he said “I’ll talk to the label”, then we had a call with you, Hugo, and him to discuss, and it happened like that!
And what does such a big label bring to you on a daily basis?
Clément: More visibility! We have a view on our statistics and we have more credit too, I think. And beyond that, they have always supported us to try to find tours. The tour we’re going to do with Evergrey, the impulse came from them.
Hugo: It’s true, I think that it gives a credibility, an additional weight. “This band is signed”. “Oh yeah!”. That’s also what I think helps us a lot on a daily basis.
We’re going to talk about your last album which was, as you said, released one year ago. Can you explain me your composition process for this album? Does everyone have a predefined role or is it a real team work?
Vince: I’d say that the songwriting is mostly done by me. What I do is that I compose demos, I record them at home, and I send them to the others, we refine the details and all that. And only then, once it’s more or less set, we bring the thing to rehearsal to see it all together and polish it. Finally, this is how we proceeded since the first album, there is not much that changed on this one, except that for the recording, well, for the first time, we did everything in our own studios. Clément has a professional studio at his place, the Boundless Production Studio, where we recorded the drums, and then everything that is voice, mixing and all that, it was done by the team that also follows us since the beginning, by Flavien Morel.
And so, all that was done… The recording took place during the pandemic and that allowed us to really concentrate on it, not to have concerts that fell on weekends, or to not have to interrupt the thing, as it had been the case before.
Clément: We’d have preferred having concerts, I think!
Vince: Yeah, right! (laughs)
Clément: It was difficult. I think on the drum takes, we were in trouble because there was a curfew or it was a little… We were coming out of the second lockdown I think, I don’t know!
Vince: Yeah, we were coming out of the second lockdown. You were sending me pre-prod!
Clément: We couldn’t see each other actually. Usually, we spend a lot of time together to fine-tune the drums plans so that it matches, and there… Even for the recording, it was very hard. Even if I was at home, Fabien and Vince had to be able to come and it was not a piece of cake!
Vince: Even for the shooting of all the music videos, we fell into the window where there was no curfew or anything (laughs). But soon after, it was back on! We managed to get everything done despite all that!
And in terms of management, how did you manage your time and your band during this pandemic?
Vince: We’re always in touch. We are quite organized for the remote work, since Valentin, you live 3 hours away. So there’s a lot of things that we already do remotely. I think we were not starting from scratch on that. We were able to organize ourselves even better so that we could move forward despite all that!
It’s a concept album that deals with the theme of death. Why did you choose this subject in particular?
Vince: Finally, the theme of the album is quite vast, it deals with death under different facets. We evoke for example the theme of spirituality, how the man comes to spirituality by the means of the fear of the death. Finally, the questions which we all ask ourselves. And then, as I said, these are questions that we all ask ourselves in one way or another and it is interesting to treat it, really, from different facets. And here, the album deals with all these facets. I think it’s also reflected in the music, in the diversity of the music of the album in general, which reflects these points of diversity, well, all these questions.
As a music fan, I personally attach a special importance to an artwork. A beautiful cover makes me want to see what’s behind it, and I think your covers are very well done. If I’m not mistaken, you have worked with the same artist since the very beginning?
Hugo: Yes that’s right, on the 4 records we made, it’s him who created the 4 artworks. The artist is called Shad, Shad Paintings, you can find him online. I met him in high school and after high school, he went to art school in Nantes, I think. For the first EP, we needed a cover and I was like “You’re drawing. Do you want to do the cover?” and he did this thing that we really appreciated and he gets along with everyone, so we chose to continue to work with him for the other releases too.
We like his very organic style, we feel the brushstrokes in the covers and even more globally, the vision he has too. In fact, when we ask him to give us a cover, we obviously give him the music, the lyrics, the title of the album and that’s it. Eventually questions of colors, rather orange, rather green and then, he has total freedom. Sometimes, he gives us several proposals, then we will choose and then he will develop this proposal. I think that for the last one, Horizon, there was only one proposal in the end?
Vince: No, there have been several, but this one was unanimous. He’s got freedom, but he draws a lot of inspiration from everything, and that’s what makes it work so well with the music.
Hugo: Sometimes, a line of text in a song, he will try to incorporate it in the cover, it can happen, it’s true!
You’re going to join Evergrey on their European tour and you’ll be playing almost one show a day for over a month. How do you prepare for such an intensive tour?
Clement: In my head, I say to myself that we have already done 23, we will add 13. And then personally, I go to the gym a little bit to train to unload the trailer, because it is harder I think to do unloading and the installation, because it is not comfortable at all. Playing every night is cool, we already play every day, it’s not going to be any different. But yeah, it’s going to be tough to play for a month and a half like that.
Vince: I thought that on the longest tours we had done up to that point, we got into a rhythm pretty quickly. At the beginning, you might be a little tired of having to change your rhythm, go to bed at 3am, get up at 2pm (laughs). But finally, you catch the rhythm very quickly and it becomes your routine!
Hugo: Yeah the body gets used to it. The first three days, even for the concerts, I feel it pass. But after yeah, three, four days, almost without warming up, you can go on stage without feeling anything the next day, so it’s cool. After that, obviously, too much abuse every day in terms of partying, alcohol and all that, it doesn’t help. But if we are relatively wise, it goes well!
We have the chance to be in tour bus too, that is to say that the concert is finished, we put away the equipment, the bus starts, we go to bed and we wake up the next day in another city. We don’t have… It’s a driver, so we don’t have to do sleepless nights to go from one city to another. We’ve done that… That is hard! But the tour bus is relatively comfortable. So it’s going pretty well, even with a lot of concerts every day.
I imagine that you must feel really tired at some point. It’s a rhythm, let’s say it, which is relatively intensive!
Hugo: Personally, I didn’t feel it that much during the last tour, two years ago!
Clément: There are more complicated things as Hugo said, when we drove the van ourselves. And sometimes, we had roads that made us… Well, there was a night team that arrived tired at the next concert, that had to do the day’s work, and then we were leaving again. Once, we left Lithuania. We drove for 22h, having slept for 2 hours because we had partied…
Hugo: Yeah, we went a bit too far!
Clément: It’s complicated! You really take the brunt of it when you get home! (laughs)
Is there a concert that particularly marked you during your career?
Vince: Well, the one we did yesterday! (laughs)
Val: Yesterday! (laughs)
Vince: I think it’s worth noting, it was a pretty amazing experience. But beyond that, there was a lot. Well there was Metal Days too! In 2017… 2016? And on the last tour with Obscura, the one that blew me away the most was the concert in Belgrade, Serbia. Because we were surprised to see how well people knew us. We had never played in this country, or even in a close country. There were people in the audience who knew the lyrics and everything, so it was a great surprise!
Clément: We played Hellfest 4 years ago, but on the Hellstage. It’s funny to think “4 years ago, we were on that stage over there and today, we play at noon on the Altar“.
Maybe the mainstage, one day!
Clément: Well in 4 years, normally, if we follow the cycle (laughs)
Can we talk about your future projects?
Hugo: Yes, some festivals this summer, the tour we talked about… This summer, there is a fourth album coming. We are working on it, no release date for the moment. Here we are, some concerts…
That was my last question. I’ll leave you the final word for our readers!
Hugo: Thanks for your interest in Fractal Universe if you’re reading this! And if you like the band, don’t hesitate to check out everything we do, we’re very active on our social networks, internet, all that. If we play near you, come and see us, say hello and tell your friends about us! (laughs)
Clément: We have 4 French dates on the tour with Evergrey. We will play in Paris, Toulouse, Colmar and Lyon.