The Breath Of Life
Hello, The Breath Of Life celebrates this year its 33th birthday. This almost sounds like we’re talking about The Rolling Stones. How do you see all these years and what is your personal highlight?
Didier: A lot or great memories. Wonderful trips around Europe. For example, without The Breath Of Life, I would never have visited so many amazing cities such as Vilnius, Copenhague, Leipzig, Prague, Jena, Madrid … And I have also had the opportunity to play with some of my “heroes”: Killing Joke, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, … It was so nice to meet them and talk. One of my personal highlight happened in Luxembourg. We were playing with And Also The Trees, one of my favorite bands ever. After our gig, they congratulated us and also said that they liked my way of playing… To me, it counts more than a night with Mick Jagger (laughs).
Phil : Not exactly like the Rolling Stones, we deserve more than them because we still carry our instruments and amplifiers ourselves. No driver, no roadie, no massage, … I think we are more rock n’ll than them! On my side the biggest highlights are probably our two tours in Czech Republic and Slovakia in the nineties because it was a great adventure and friendship moments. Our new album Under The Falling Stars is also one of my highlights because it was unexpected after my break of 15 years and because we made a very good job together in a very nice atmosphere.
Isabelle: 33 years sounds so long but it still doesn’t feel like it. I guess it must be like a part my life and this is probably one of my highlights.
In the goth rock section I really do think that The Breath Of Life is the band with a very own sound. Do you consider this as one of the reasons why you were around for such a long time?
Phil : We have always tried to do things that no one else exactly did before. So it’s always a challenge, it’s not boring and it always open new interesting paths. I can’t imagine to create songs which has been already heard thousands of times before.
Can you explain us how the songs are written. Who does what in The Breath Of Life?
Phil : The first basic idea comes from one of the musicians, it can be anyone, it can be just two chords or something more prepared. If it’s ok for everyone we try to go further to create a song. Isabelle : We have a rehearsal once a week all together. We kind of make like a jam session around an idea. Everyone creates their own line. I put words on my vocal melody once the structure of the song is ready.
In its very early start, the band was picked up in other countries. How is the situation these days? Are you still playing abroad?
Isabelle : We would love to play much more abroad. Playing live has always been something very important for us. We do need a proper touring agency to open the right doors. The new album Under The Falling Stars has been for 8 weeks in the top 10 of the Deutsch Alternative Charts (July/August 17) and we do wish to get more opportunities. I keep my fingers crossed.
Phil : We still have to jostle for a show. Today, in big popular festivals, at least half of the site is dedicated to the dance scene. What is the part of the dark music in the remaining place? Very small. We are not totally unknown, but unfortunately we are not notorious enough to play only by saying our name. Despite this we’re still ready to play everywhere people want us.
Didier : We do our best to go everywhere people want us to play … Even if it’s far … And despite the fact that I’m totally scared of flying.
Belgian fans can’t complain so far in 2018 as already three gigs are confirmed. It almost feels like the band absolutely wants to play, not?
Isabelle: Yes, we love performing live. That’s where the magic appears. That’s where you can give another dimension to your music.
Didier: To me, if a band doesn’t play, it means that it is dead. That ‘s the only real way to keep alive. But sadly, to get some dates to play is more difficult than before.
The hard truth is the high days of goth rock are over, especially with an audience that’s getting older. How do you cope with that as a band?
Isabelle : It doesn’t have any influence on what I want to express as a musician but we do try to use the new media to touch new people. When I was 13, I remember spending lots of time in record shops and libraries to discover new bands. Nowadays, everything is available on the internet to help people to find music. I mean that if younger people want to they can find out the music they feel the most. There are great new young bands too so I’m sure there is still a place for this music.
Didier: I think that we are approximately the same age as our audience. That means not too young (laughs). You’re right. We can’t oppose this fact. And honestly I don’t care. You can not force younger people to come if they don’t want. It’s the same case in stamp collection! All of the stamp collectors are very old nowadays, no? So, stamp collectors and goth rockers, all together in the same struggle!
Phil : Hmmm, what a strange comparison. Do you think we will have a stamp with our name one day ? We deserve as much as the king, correct ? … I have always been interested by what’s happened in the music world. I don’t like all the new things I hear, far from it, but the evolution of music and my interest for it didn’t stop in the eighties. I think you can hear that on the last album too. It’s like in real world, to survive you have to evolve keeping what you have learned. See Darwin (laughs).
I guess as a musician you’d like to attract a new young audience. What can bands do to give dark sounds some attention?
Phil : If at least we knew.
Didier: To get some attention is often a question of chance and luck. Whatever the kind of music you play. Look at Interpol, they made a successful and brilliant first album with a lot of darky moods in it. And when journalists told them about Joy Division or The Chameleons, they seemed to have never heard about these two legendary bands! How come???
Last year the band released Under The Falling Stars on Wool-E. Even it needed several spins for me, I concluded it was your best release so far. I guess you are going to say the same!
Phil : Thanks ! I really like the new album. It’s a perfect mix of what all band members like. I understand it can be upsetting at first listens and it may be not easy to find the key. We travelled down different paths and listeners could be lost but if you find the entrance you should discover his richness. We must also highlight the work of our producer Gilles Martin who made a great job on this album in a very enjoyable complicity.
It was a rather dark album. A dark soundtrack for dark times?
Phil : You are right. This album fit with his time. Dark… but fortunately we can add ourself some bright colors
Didier: Under The Falling Stars can’t be darker than the period of history we are living in. I don’t feel well in present times. I feel nostalgic. I’ve been nostalgic since I was born. Which is quite supernatural. At your birth, what kind of memories could you have ? Maybe some events that remind you something of your life before ? A proof of reincarnation ? Interesting. Well, now that I’m adult, I’ve stored a lot of images to feed my nostalgia. And it looks like a disease, really. Sometimes, when I’m highly sick, there is just one “modern thing” that I appreciate : going to the dentist. I guess that it’s less painful nowadays than 25 years ago. I’m deeply lost in nostalgia. And when nostalgia prevents you to try new things, you’re lost in routine. It becomes very dangerous indeed. I’ve made this little poem some months ago : “Routine is my heroine. Since I was about seventeen. Compared to morphine. It’s the best dope I’ve ever seen”. I can not be more clear and sincere. But I’m curing myself. And if our album could be the soundtrack of this year, it will help me a lot.
You soon will play at Winterfest. Tell us why people have to see your gig?
Isabelle : Because we are four kids living their music on stage. Seeing us live is a nice way to feel and understand the emotion in our music.
Didier: Well … Maybe just … Because they like us ? (laughs).
Are there any other acts on Winterfest you’d like to see yourself?
Didier : All the artists programmed at the Winterfest Festival are good. I would especially like to see The Alarm. I’ve never seen them live. And also Hermetic Electric. A nice band that we had the opportunity to book at a Fantastique Night in Brussels last year.
Isabelle: The Alarm for sure but also few bands that I’ve never seen before so it’s gonna be a nice discovery day.
Sex, drugs or rock ‘n roll? Choose!
Phil : I’ve erased one of them some years ago. I let you guess which one.
Didier: I’m not addicted to drugs … Except if you consider that white wine with “Picon” is a drug. So, definitely : Sex and Rock And Roll are my best friends. But I’ve to say that I’ve collected more rock records than women in my life.
Isabelle : No drugs for me, please (laughs).
What’s your favorite record of all time and tell us why.
Didier : To that question, I have a different answer every week. This week, it’s Brotherhood, the fourth album by New Order. I’ve been to jail with this album ! It counts in a life ! With a friend, I was celebrating the end of our exams in 1986. We drank a lot. My friend fell into a shop window. The police came. I spent 20 minutes in the cell. With two tramps, a girl saying that she was there « by accident » and the New Order’s vinyl in my school bag.
Phil : You are right and I don’t think I’ve answer twice the same at this question. Today I would say Seventeen Seconds by the Cure because it was one of my bedside records when I was a teenager and a keep a special feeling with this album and because I just bought my ticket for The Cure 40th anniversary in London in July.
Isabelle: It also depends on my mood, but i would say the compilation A Passage Of Time by Dead Can Dance. It is a great mix of wonderful songs. It gives me energy.
With who wouldn’t you mind to be 8 hours in an elevator and what would you do then?
Didier: With God … And I would yell at him because taking 8 hours to repair an elevator means that he really doesn’t exist.
Isabelle: Lene Lovich to sing like crazy (laughs).
The last words are yours…
Didier Cz : If you want to die old, take your time for your last words …
Phil : Chhhht
Picture by Patrice Hoerner
Interview by Didier Becu - Luminous Dash