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AKIAVEL's Butch: "We go deeper into what we want to do, what we want to play and how we want to sound like, because our sound is very important to us. We do not want this classical Death Metal sound, we want something rawer, more powerful."

Interview with Butch & Aure from AKIAVEL
by Thomas Kumke at 11 May 2021, 1:28 PM

AKIAVEL is a Death Metal band from France and they released their second album “Vae Victis” in April 2021 via Akia Records. Metal Temple writer Thomas Kumke was fortunate to have a lengthy chat with vocalist Aure and drummer Butch about the band’s journey during the last two years, their new album, their inspirations, and their future plans. AKIAVEL are:

Hello Aure and Butch, it is a real pleasure to have you and I am really grateful to perform an interview with you for Metal Temple magazine. First of all I hope you had a great start in 2021, and you and your family are safe.

Butch: Everyone is fine at Akiavel and our families are fine too. Thank you. I hope it is the same for you.

How do you cope with the current pandemic situation as a musician? How do you keep connecting with the fans?

Butch: The history of Akiavel is a bit weird, because we are a fairly new band formed in 2018. We released our first album in 2020, a bit more than one year ago. It went all very fast and we almost never played live before this first album. Once we released it, we wanted to play it live and at the very first day of our tour, the lockdown started. It was on the 16th or 17th of March 2020. We had a tour in France and Belgium and all of our 16 or 17 dates were canceled. So we actually never had a chance to play our first album live as a band, which is pretty weird for artists. We decided to move on and to continue doing what we do best, playing music and if we cannot play it live, we would compose and record the second album. That is what we did and 13 months later, we managed to have the second album out. In the meantime, we shot a lot of videos and live sessions for the first album, which allowed us keeping in touch with our fans and to have a growing fan base all around the world. So, the pandemic was almost positive to us to that respect, since we had time to concentrate on the social media and on our image, the videos, and the photos shoots. I think it helped us in getting known by fans all over the world. But now that we have two albums we need to play live, even if we are already working on the third album and we already know when it will be out.

Aure: Yes!

Butch: Everything is planned as we have our own record company and produce our own records. We have our own studio as well, so we know what we want to do and when. Hopefully, by the end of summer everything will be back to normal and we can play live. We also shoot a lot of videos, last weekend we were shooting one and we have planned to shoot another one by the beginning of June. There is a lot of stuff to come out within the next weeks.

Akiavel are a relatively young Death Metal band and was formed only in 2018. What was the idea behind the “project” Akiavel?

Aure: The name Akiavel comes from the famous humanist, philosopher, and political Italian thinker, Niccolo Machiavelli. We modified the name to make it sounding more Metal, so Machiavelli became Akiavel. Our music is Death Metal but also melodic and we tried to get both aspects into the name. It is a mix.

Butch: Yeah, the main idea was to mix all our influences. All of us are coming from very different backgrounds with different styles, so the idea was to have the best of each. It is probably weird, but we only have few bands that all 4 of us like. We all come from the Metal community, but we all have very different tastes and backgrounds in terms of music. So the idea was to put all these together and to see how it would sound like with Aure’s voice, which is very particular. At the beginning, there was no drummer, the first EP was released using a drum machine before I came. I joined about 8 to 9 months later, and we immediately began writing our first album.

Butch when did you start playing drums and how did you come to Death Metal?

Butch: That is a good question. I started playing violin when I was 5 years old and then I switched to drums when I was 10 years old. So I have been playing drums for 30 years and I have always played Heavy Metal and my experience and background is in Thrash Metal. I am a big Testament, Slayer, and Grip Incorporated fan, so I am not coming from Death Metal. When I joined Akiavel, I told the guys that I would join under the condition that I could incorporate some Thrash Metal stuff into the music. I am also a big AC/DC fan and I also like Rage Against The Machine as well as some more groovy stuff.

Aure: And we do it!

Butch: Yeah, sometimes you can hear it in my drum playing. I try to have different ways of playing drums. I like sounding a bit different from traditional Death Metal drummers. I try to include some mid-tempo and slow stuff, sometimes sounding a bit more like Rage Against The Machine than Carcass and mix everything into a big Metal bowl.

Aure, when did you start singing and how did you come to Death Metal?

Aure: I started singing when I was 20 years old. At this time, we were not having fast internet yet and I did only listen to one Death Metal band with female vocalist. That was Sinister. When I discovered Sinister, I tried to do the same thing, because it was amazing to see a woman singing Death Metal. I am also a fan of Cannibal Corpse and knew the lyrics of Chris Barnes and tried to sing his songs with the same voice.

Who do you like more? Chris Barnes or George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher?

Aure: I like both voices, I started with Chris Barnes but my voice is closer to George Fisher. I am really a fan of Cannibal Corpse and of Carcass, so Jeff Walker is a great singer too. I love the traditional Death Metal bands.

How did you learn growling? Did you teach yourself or did you attend lessons?

Aure: I am an autodidact and I am practicing every day since I am 20 years old.

I think you were vocalist in a few French Death Metal bands before joining Akiavel…

Aure: My first experience was in an old school Death Metal band and afterwards I was vocalist in a Hardcore band. This was an experience to develop my voice and being able to sing with different voices. So today I have developed many different voices for Akiavel.

You are active since 2018 only but you already have three releases. It started with the self-named EP in 2018 and the first full-length album “V” in early 2020, just a few weeks before the lockdown. What is the meaning of “V”?

Aure: The concept of this album “V” was based on a book of personal development. It was inspired by a Canadian author who wrote about the 5 fundamental wounds every human in the world can suffer: rejection, abandonment, humiliation, betrayal, and injustice. We made five songs from both perspectives, from the victims and from those who cause the wounds. So, altogether 10 songs about 5 wounds, therefore “V”.

I felt “V” was an exceptional album in every way, considering it was a debut. How was this perceived from fans and critics?

Butch: Very well, especially in abroad, more than in France. It is very weird. We got very positive feedback from the US, from Mexico, even from Indonesia. We were surprised and our music videos reached interesting levels of views. We released 4 videos and the first 3 videos are to be understood as a continuing story. The response to “V” shows that it was working and our popularity grew very fast. That is why we decided to release the second album very quickly because things were growing fast and we wanted to continue with this pattern and this internationalization of the band. Now it started that we got feedback from France and requests for interviews. It is funny.

You mentioned already that you did not have a chance to promote “V” with live shows…

Butch: Yes, we played in 2019 the off version of the Hellfest before the festival. As a very young band, we were invited there and we played live some covers and some of our songs we were writing at the time. It was one of the very few live appearances and it was a 1 year before our first album.

A few months ago, you had at least the opportunity to play at one of the monthly editions of Slay At Home. How was the experience of a live stream and what were the reactions?

Butch: It was a short online show, we played only 2 songs. It was a real live recording and funny to make. We were contacted by Slay At Home which is organized by the Metal Injection website. We have a US manager who is taking care of us and organizing things and interviews. She organized this live appearance. We decided to record this in the same studio where we recorded the new album. It was recorded two days before the live broadcasting. Everything was installed and we decided to record these two songs for the US and to film it. The conditions were weird because we were in a studio instead of being on a live stage. You have to be a lot more precise when you play in a studio. There is no way to be relaxed. It was funny and it was the first time we played together for almost one year. So we have a video on the first gathering of Akiavel for one year. It was fun to do and I think we did not too bad. We got very positive feedback especially from the US, because it was mainly watched there. It is also an opportunity to meet new bands and to discover them. So I think we have gained a lot of bands from this festival. It is positive for us.

You released the new album “Vae Victis” just last week. How was the response so far?

Butch: Very positive. We have been amongst the top sales on the Season of Mist website, which is our distributor. We already press some new CDs, because after 1 week we were almost running out of copies. The next batch of CDs will be ready in a couple of days. It is selling very well. The vinyl copies are already sold out.

 “Vae Victis” is another awesome album, but musically slightly different from “V”: it is more aggressive, faster, the drums are more technical, and the vocals are more brutal and more diverse. At the same time, you maintained your melodic and epic parts of your music…

Butch: There is no lead guitar solo on the album…

And no lead guitar solo….Did you intentionally go into a more aggressive direction?

Butch: It is funny to hear your analysis of the album, because we never analyzed what we have done and it is pretty interesting. I mean, saying that the drum parts are more technical, or faster than on the first album might be true, actually. It is interesting, but nothing has been done on purpose. We just compose it as it comes. I think we knew each other better for the second album, so when it came to composing, everyone had a clearer idea of what they would be able to play and want to play. We were also more comfortable and relaxed to go deeper into our instruments and technicality. The evolution of Akiavel is improved compared to the first album. However, there is no thinking about the strategy or writing process.

How did the songwriting process work for the new album?

Butch: Usually, Chris on the guitar comes with the riffs and gives it to Jay on the bass. Jay is also responsible for the sound of the band, so he is kind of our sound engineer, even if we had a sound engineer for the two first albums, but Jay was next to him and he is very good at that. Jay has a very precise idea of what he wants, so everything is gathered by Jay. Then they have a draft of the song. Often they put very basic drumming on it, an idea of how could it sound like and then send it over to me and I am butchering the drum parts on it. Once we have something more comprehensive and coherent, we send it to Aure, and she knows the subject she wants to talk about. Depending on the song, the speed of the song and the atmosphere, she writes the exact lyrics on that. There are some layers from the first idea to the finished product, but it goes pretty fast. It could be two or three weeks from the first idea to the final song. It was a case for “Frozen Beauties”. Then there are some songs we keep on the side for future albums. They are completely finished, but there is always some stuff we do not keep or we do not want to work on further. We just keep the best of the songs. It is only 10 songs on “Vae Victis” plus a bonus track “Burn” taken from the first EP, but played with real drums and 15 ppm faster than the original track.

You have the Akia Studio. Did you record and produce the new album there?

Butch: Actually the first 2 albums have been recorded at the Art Music Studio. This is a third party studio. At the end of the recordings of “Vae Victis”, we launched the Akia Studio with Jay, so as from now on, everything is made here. All the demo tracks and everything else was already recorded at the Akia Studio, but now it is our one and only recording place. Jay as a bass player is very good at it. He is also recording some other bands.

That gives you some freedom….

Butch: We could not be more independent actually. We had a record company for the first album. For the second album, we created Akia Records, this is our own record company. We had a studio for the 2 albums and now we have our own studio. So we are more than free. It is very good for us to decide whatever we want to do and that is maybe what you can hear on the album, and that is also what you can see on our imagery, music videos and pictures. There is no one telling us what we could do or what we should do. It is only the 4 of us. It is very funny to do this, we are like kids.

What is your favorite song on “Vae Victis”?

Aure: My favorite song on “Vae Victis” is “Comrade”, because my son was also singing on this track. He might be the future of Akiavel. I am a proud mother. He is 10 years old. On this track, my son and the son of our bassist Jay were singing together.

Butch: They sang together and we will release “Comrade” as a music video. We already shot it. Everything is ready and it will be out in June.

Aure: “Comrade” is also a tribute to the victims of a famous serial killer who was really a monster. Andrei Chikatilo was a Russian guy who killed 52 children and young women. It touched me a lot and it is a tribute song. All this together make this title to my favorite song on the album. We should not forget those young victims.

Butch: My favorite is “Mommy I’m Capable”. This is one of the fast tracks on the album. It was the last one we have composed. I love the intro. It is a bit complex to play and something different, but then it is just fast and violent. I like it.

My favorites are “Mommy I’m Capable” and “Pentagram Tattoo”….

Butch: Yeah these two songs are liked by a lot of people. “Pentagram Tattoo” was the second single we released. As you are aware, the second album is also a concept album on serial killers, there are 10 songs about 10 serial killers…

That is a good keyword. Let us talk about the concept of “Vae Victis”….

Aure: For the second album I wanted to have a real subject. I wanted it to be less conceptual, but more about real things close to us, closer to us as human beings than just the concept of humiliation. It is a down-to-Earth concept album about real humans killing other real humans. All 10 titles are based on true stories.

Butch: Yeah, some people like Aure are very interested in serial killers and their stories and particularly in the psychological aspect. Some of our fans almost found out the names of the 10 serial killers just by the title of the tracks. Now that we have the lyrics on the CD cover, it is easier if you are interested to know who the killers are and to understand the stories.

Aure: The stories are to understand how and where the killer can act. It is really about the psychology and it is a tribute to the victims.

Akiavel put a lot of attention on visuals, for example in the videos or the photo shoots. The videos are always cinematic with a lot of visuals. “Frozen Beauties” is the first video release from the new album and another picturesque movie. How does the Akiavel video production work from the idea to the release?

Butch: Everything is done by ourselves. We do not have any agency. We just pay for the director. The rest is done by ourselves, we find the location by ourselves, the actors are some friends of us, playing just for pleasure. Everything is just coming from our mind. We do some team meetings to discuss what we could do. For instance, we decided that “Frozen Beauties” was the opening track of our album and the first video release. It has the same type of atmosphere as “The Witness” which was the opening track on “V”. That are the same kind of songs, they are very lyrical, mid-tempo and not too fast. This is the atmosphere that we like for opening songs. So we decided to release this one as video. Then we talked to Aure about the lyrics and the serial killers in the lyrics. The song talks about a mother and a daughter who used to seduce guys in the forest. They were coming from Estonia, so we decided to shoot it in January in the mountains next to our homes. We had to find some woods, some snow and a fireplace and we went to a friend's restaurant to shoot the scenes where the guy was killed. So yeah, everything is done 100% by ourselves, it is just a discussion about what we want and what we can do. For the second video to be released in a few weeks, you will see that it is completely different. For “Comrade” we had to think about the way to draw the attention to the fact of killing children. So, it will be completely different. For the second video, it will be the same director as for “My Lazy Doll” from the first album. We decided to change the director just for one of the music video of each album to see how it would look like, so it will be a completely different atmosphere. For the music video that we will be shooting in June, the director will be Mr. Cana again who is a very close friend of us. I think “The Witness” was the first music video he ever shot. The guy is extremely talented, but he is well-known photographer. With Akiavel, he began shooting a lot of music videos and the things are getting better and better, the colors, the atmosphere, simply everything. We are very happy about that.

I want to ask you a few things and I want you to elaborate on this and we end up with 2 topics I want to discuss with you. Lets start….What are your top 3 favorite albums of all time?

Butch: That is a good question. “Power Of Inner Strength” by Grip Incorporated from 1995. Then I would say “Stiff Upper Lip” by AC/DC from 2000 and then I would say maybe “Demonic” by Testament from 1997.

And more recently?

“Vae Victis” of course, I am actually listening 10 times a day to the album. It is weird to say that but we are our first fans. I mean, we love the music we have recorded, for us it is the perfect music we want to hear. About another recent artists, I do not know. I have no recent artists, I am an old guy now and I am stuck in the 90s.

Aure…

Aure: First of all “Heartwork” by Carcass, actually I love “Swansong” too. I am really a fan of Carcass. Then “Kill” by Cannibal Corpse and then “Dechristianize” by Vital Remains.  Actually I have so many to choose from, for example Benighted. They are friends, but it started for me as a fan going to their concerts and today we are friends. Their music was really important to me and their album “Insane Cephalic Production” ¬ ICP ¬ was really my discovery of Death Metal, because it just kicks ass. It was also the time when I started singing. Benighted is beyond that what I used to listen to. It is very modern and it is very straight-in-your-face, especially vocalist Julien Truchan has his very own way to sing.

Butch: To add on that, Julien Truchan featured on our album “V” and it sounds so good to have the two voices of Aure and Julien, they are so different.

What were your top 3 live shows you ever watched?

Butch: I would say AC/DC in Stade de France in 2001, then Metallica in Paris. I think it was in 1996. Then Testament when they played the Demonic tour in the 90s in Paris, at a very small venue. It was so crazy. I saw them several times, but it was so powerful and seeing Gene Hoglan on the drums, it was just a dream for a drummer.

Aure: It is not very original but it was Rammstein, because it was a real show. It is not really the music that I listen to every day, but live it was very interesting. They were fantastic on stage and very spectacular. Then I saw AC/DC in 2009.

Butch: Aure I did not know that you liked AC/DC as well.

Aure: Yeah my dad was a fan. When I was a little girl, my father was a guitarist and I sung on AC/DC. I began like that. The third concert that really touched me was with Motörhead, because today Lemmy is with the angels or with the demons, we do not know. It was a concert that was really violent. I go to concerts since I was 17 years old, but never saw a concert like that. I also like seeing Hardcore bands, like Walls Of Jericho with their vocalist Candace Kucsulain. I love this woman! That was really cool and it was a violent concert too. There are actually too many good concerts to chose from….

AC/DC, I did not expect that…

Butch: Everyone should listen to AC/DC, it should be taught at school.

Aure: It is the beginning of Rock.

I admit, I went to an AC/DC show as well in 1991 but I wanted to see Metallica as their support band…

Aure: I saw Metallica in 2009 in Nimes and I have a Metallica tattoo. I was really disappointed when I went home after the show.

Butch: The DVD concert. I was there too. The images were good and the sound was good. I doubt it was the real sound, it might have been edited a bit.

Akiavel has a lot of diversity in the sound ranging from melodic and traditional Death Metal to Thrash and Groove Metal. What are your inspirations and how does it affect the Akiavel sound?

Butch: Very good question. I think we are inspired by our own tastes. I mean, when I compose the drum parts, I am just playing what I want to hear and that comes from what I like. Sometimes I am just wondering what Gene Hoglan would play on this riff or what Dave Lombardo would play. This helps me to find the pattern of the idea that I should develop and then I have good starting point. But again, that is something which comes from our hearts. It might sound stupid, but it is true.

Most bands need a few albums to find their own style. Do you think that Akiavel already has found their trademark sound and uniqueness?

Butch: I think you should answer the question, because you are observing what we are doing. We are at the inside of it, so we do not realize it and it is very difficult to analyze what we are doing. Also, we do not know what tomorrow will be like. From our point of view, when we look at our first and second album, it seems that there is a natural evolution. We go deeper into what we want to do, what we want to play and how we want to sound like, because our sound is very important to us as well. We do not want this classical Death Metal sound, we want something rawer, more powerful, and not too much compression. So I do not know what the third album will sound like, it is not something completely planned. We just go the way the music makes us go. Perhaps our third album will be the climax of what we can do. I do not know. I think we have had a very unique career so far. I mean, very few bands have released 2 albums and are talking to journalists and fans all over the world without having ever played live as a band.

Good point…it leads us to our next keywords…I give you a choice for going on tour with one of three bands. What is your choice and why? Butch: I give you the choice of Kataklysm, Amon Amarth, or Metallica…

Butch: For sure I would choose Metallica because I want to see the way how it all works with this team. It would be crazy to see how it works with such a big machine.

Aure: I give you the choice of Iron Maiden, Arch Enemy, Obituary

Aure: Obituary! This is for me one of the coolest Metal bands and I would love to go on tour with them. And I also would choose Amon Amarth, because I love Vikings.

Butch: For Aure’s selection, I would choose Iron Maiden because they are just the kings and I would also go with Aure for Obituary because they are just a killer band and so typical for the 90s sound that I love. When you see them playing live, it is crazy. It is just so brutal and the drummer hits it so hard. It is crazy.

Aure \[laughs]: And nobody can do Slowly We Rot like Obituary!

With whom would Akiavel love to go on tour and what are your aims for the next few years given that all goes back to normal?

Butch: Very good question. It is difficult to plan so we will see what will be proposed by our manager. Our tastes are one thing, but there is a difference between what we would love to do and what will be consistent to do. I mean, touring with Obituary, Testament, or Carcass would be a dream, but it also depends on what is realistic and what fits. So, it is very difficult to say, surely we want to tour and especially going to the US where we know we are awaited, but we are in Europe and we love Europe. Going on tour with Gojira would be crazy of course. They are French and the French are crazy. There are so many bands we like, but when it comes to going on tour, our mission is to be consistent and having bands who we would go along and to please the fans. So, we will see.

You are a French band but when it comes to French Metal, there is relatively little given the size of the country…

Butch: Only very few of the French Metal bands are internationally known, like Gojira or Benighted. There are many very good French bands, but they do not make it outside France and we do not really know why. Maybe they do not really want, I do not know. It is so weird and complicated to understand. Metal is not in our culture in the French society, it is very different from Germany, US, or United Kingdom. In France, nobody listens to Metal, there is no Metal on TV. We are considered as outsiders when we listen to Metal and I know it is very different in many other countries where it is considered to be more normal. You see some Metal heads on the streets in other countries; that does not exist in France. It is very rare, unless you go to Metal gigs. There you realize that Metal heads exist. On a daily basis, people rarely listen to Metal, for example there is no Metal radio in France.

It is obviously difficult to make any kind of plans for the near future. What are your plans for the next months and what can we expect from Akiavel?

Butch: First of all, we will be getting ready for live shows, because we cannot disappoint the fans in case there is any event. We expect to come back to a kind of normal situation in September, October and we have a few festivals scheduled in here, around 4 to 5 festivals in France in September, October and November. So, we have to be ready to play live and to have very violent and cool shows. We are already thinking of light shows and everything we want to promote and to give to our fans. As you said, we are very precise and different in terms of imagery, of pictures, and the way we want Akiavel to look like, so it will be the same for live shows. At the moment, we are not able to rehearse. Everything has been closed for more than 1 year, so we are rehearsing remotely at the moment. For instance, during the last 4 weeks, it was completely forbidden to travel more than 10 kilometers in France, so everything is complicated for us. In any case, we have to be ready and things should be a bit better from the 15th of May onwards. Things should come back to normal, but it depends on the case numbers.

Is there anything you would like to tell to your fans or the readers of Metal Temple magazine?

Aure: I want to say to all our fans Thank You for following us. You are just amazing because if you were not here we would not exist. Thank you so much.

Butch: I agree. We just want to invite people who do not know about us and have not had the opportunity to listen to our music or watch our videos to give it a try. We hope you will not be disappointed at it. Thank you for your interest in a new French Metal band as we are not very numerous in France to make it abroad. So I hope we will be able to follow Gojira’s path.

Akiavel, it was a great honor to perform this interview with you for Metal Temple magazine. I really enjoyed it talking to you and I count down the days to see you live on tour. Thank you very much.

Butch: Yeah, it was pleasure and we are very grateful. Thank you. We all appreciate that.

Aure: Thank you so much for the interview.



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