Cauchemar - Interview
I discovered Cauchemar sometime back in 2014 by means of browsing the internet for horror themed metal and by the stroke of chance a streaming service displayed 'Étoile D'argent'. I listened to the song and fell in love with it to the point of purchasing the vinyl record "Chapelle Ardente". Spun it on my turntable and was immediately blown away by the atmosphere Cauchemar was able to conjure; far ahead of many new wave traditional metal with the added mysticism of 70's horror films. Annick Giroux's vocals caught me by the balls, both raw and trance inducing; and the music Francois (guitars), Andres (bass) and Xavier (drums) created waltzed with Annick's vocals. Today MetalBite managed to catch up with the ¼ of the Canadian modern heavy doom metal masters Annick Giroux.
Thank you for welcoming MetalBite into your abode, how have things been within the camp as of recent?
Hey, thanks to you for taking the time to interview me! Things have been doing pretty great – I just came back from Ireland, where I went to see the best US Black Metal band Negative Plane play in an old gothic church. It was really a special evening, and they did their best set I've ever seen in my life. I told them I never needed to see them anymore, haha! Besides that, I've been keeping busy with my day to day job doing graphic design, and also taking care of my label and my label bands.
How is the energy within the band currently?
Pretty good, especially since the short-but-incredible tour we did in late August/early September. We have such a great chemistry between all band members, everything feels very much natural. They are like family to me!
How has your relationship with Nuclear War Now! been thus far?
Great, the good thing with NWN is that they are open with whatever crazy idea we have for the layouts, as well as having a good distribution both in Europe and in North America. Yosuke is an old friend and he's always been very much supportive to us.
After hearing 'Comme Un Poignard' off the Trapped Under Ice compilation released through Temple of Mystery Records, I was more than pleased. Thus; it's been awhile since the release of "Chapelle Ardente", is there a new full length in the works or even better, is it completed? I hope there is one on the way soon because I assume many of your supporters are getting impatient including myself.
Haha! I'm sorry, we had a lot of changes since the release of "Chapelle Ardente" – we left the big city for a quieter life in the countryside and have been busy with our small label. But we have been working hard with Cauchemar – the fire is still burning, and we aim to have the writing of our next full length completed by the spring.
What is 'Comme Un Poignard' / 'Like A Dagger' about?
It's about taking revenge using black magic. Giving intense suffering to an enemy using the dark forces. "Like a dagger… in your heart!"
The lyrics to Cauchemar's music are sung in French, which by the way adds another ominous layer to its tone, hence, will you share some insight as to why the French tongue is used in Cauchemar's music? Is recording Cauchemar's music in French a means of honoring heritage or something of the sort?
We are all fans of French Metal – especially the huge wave of French-speaking 80's metal bands. It made me think of my own scene; French is the first language in Quebec, yet barely any Quebec heavy metal bands sing in their native tongue! I know that in France, a lot of bands used to write in French because they had such limited English, it was the only way for them to sing – which is not the case in Quebec (most people speak pretty good English). Anyway, we wanted to be different, and to sort of honor our heavy metal heroes. Oh – also, we are huge fans of Paul Chain and Dead Can Dance – and in both you can't really tell what they are singing about. It adds another layer of mystery, which I believe helps creative a dark atmosphere.
What awoke your liking and passion for heavy metal?
It was a pen pal friend of mine from Belgium. She sent me copied cassettes of X-Japan's Vanishing Vision and Blue Blood! I was still in elementary school and listened to those tapes every day for two years, until the tapes stretched and wouldn't play anymore. Those albums were burned in my memory and soon I tried finding everything about metal and especially bands that sounded like them! I have a lot of fondness for Japanese metal for that reason.
How did you meet the rest of the band?
I met François, the guitarist, at a New Year's metal house party in my hometown of Ottawa. He was a friend of a friend, and he had a solo folk project that I thought was really cool. We kept in touch and eventually started seeing each other, and he's been my husband for 9 years now! We founded Cauchemar together. Andres (bass), I met him when he was still just a guitarist – I believe he played guitar for Violentada who I thought was amazing, especially due to his guitar work. We were actively looking for a bassist (my skills were too limited on bass) so we asked him if he could play bass for us. Fun fact – I showed him the very basics on how to play bass with your fingers, but he became better than me after a day, haha! He's been in the band since 2010. For the drummer, Joel – he's been a close friend for a while. The first time I met him was in 2011 at a Black Metal festival – he stayed at my place in Montreal along with three other friends. I've always followed his bands Aube, Occult Burial and Asile (the only other band where he plays drums), and eventually we asked him if he could be our drummer. He officially joined in 2017.
How did you arrive at the decision to be part of a heavy doom metal band? And what inspired you to take up the role of vocalist in Cauchemar?
The music of Cauchemar has always been the reflection of our own musical tastes. We actually wanted to do a pure doom band from the start, but we could only write what you can hear on our records. It's in our blood, I suppose! As for being vocalist – it just happened naturally. I was originally only going to play bass, but we couldn't find a singer, so I decided to learn to sing and take on vocal duties. I never really found out how to sing, haha! That's why my vocals are so unusual!
You were responsible for playing the organs and synth on Chapelle ardente, I thought you did a fantastic job particularly on 'Nécromancie', 'Voyage Au Bout De La Nuit' and 'La Nuit Des Âmes', therefore summoning a near perfect atmosphere for the opening and closing of the record; it was like spectating a 70s horror flick. Which brings me to ask, was that your initial goal on "Chapelle Ardente"? To conjure an almost theatrical feel?, or maybe I'm entirely wrong.
We wanted to build a gothic atmosphere – something dark, funeral-like and very much mystical. A bit like a dream-like fantastic film. Thanks for the touching words – I'm glad you enjoyed my work on the synth and organ!
The occult is also a lyrical theme explored throughout Chauchemar's music and notably on "Chapelle Ardente". Where do you gather inspiration when reflecting on such a topic? Also do you subscribe to any philosophies or branches within the field?
We use occult symbolism in our songs mostly to talk about personal experiences that are hard to convey in everyday words. About the way we see the world and we change as human beings, slowly getting some kind of wisdom about it all. I'm not sure about the other guys because we don't talk much about it, but François and I, we don't adhere to any set philosophies. We just take whatever fits with our life experiences. We like to keep an open mind and not reject anything outright.
I have seen some of your live performances online, more lately a 40-minute set at Saint Vitus on August 30th, 2019; the energy Cauchemar brought as a unit was magical, more specifically yourself as frontwoman of the band, absolutely phenomenal. The way you take command of the stage is impressive. Tell me about your pre show preparations; is there anything special yourself and the guys do?
Thank you Alex! Whenever I play live, I try to live my lyrics through my performance. It makes me alive and go a bit wild, like you saw on that video, haha! Our pre-show rituals are simple; we like a bit of quiet before we go on stage, but we always have a few beers to really get in the mood, hehe. To loosen up enough to get completely into the music.
I have also noticed some theatrics being used, from the chiming of bells to, holding chains in both hands and the use of a ritual knife of some sort. Please elaborate on what those gestures represent.
Yes, using these objects help me get more in the state. The chains are for calling spirits, and the ritual knife is for the invocation in 'Comme Un Poignard'. At the Saint Vitus show, I had an extremely sharp knife and it felt even more …poignant on stage!
Let's move away from the metal a bit; I understand you are a mechanic in the kitchen, having engineered many tasty recipes in honor of the bands and musicians you respect in metal, and even going as far as penning 'Hellbent for Cooking'. I would like to own a copy sometime, as I am myself a bit of an enthusiast of unique dishes; what sparked your interest in culinary art?
I've always been really into food, but I truly became a foodie when I moved out of my parents place to Montreal, in 2005. I became obsessed with food and cooking it, buying cookbooks and learning the culinary arts by myself. I'm not a chef at all, but I like to cook (and eat!) a lot. Haha!
What are some of your favorite dishes that yourself 'Morbid Chef' has crafted.
Perhaps one of the best dishes I have done is a cream of chanterelles soup – made with a bit of cider and a lot of butter. It was one of the best things I've ever eaten!
Are you given any assistance prior to or during the preparation of the dishes?
Most of the time, my husband assists me by doing the dishes and sometimes cutting vegetables. But I do everything by my own. If I don't know how to prepare something, I research it of course.
I'm assuming a-lot of money and other valuable resources play a great role in the crafting process of these exotic delicacies. Thus, what happens should a project fail to manifest the results expected?
I usually am pretty thrifty with my recipes – I mostly buy things that are on sale at the grocery store, and then cook around that. But it of course happened in the past that my recipes failed. If it's not burnt, I will eat it, or re-craft it into something else. Haha! No waste here.
What is the most resource-consuming dish you have ever crafted? Did it turn out as projected?
Once I was really obsessed with making a recipe that was all black and had the darkest, blackest ingredients. I bought some black garlic for it, fresh trumpet mushrooms, squid ink pasta and blood sausage and tried to make a recipe out of it from scratch. I paid quite a lot for that garlic and trumpet mushrooms (it was before I learned how to forage!) and the results weren't very good – ha! I'm still learning to cook with black garlic – it has a very particular taste.
What is the most difficult recipe you've created thus far? Also, what results did its spring?
I don't really cook extremely difficult recipes unfortunately – I prefer simple with fresh ingredients than complicated and time consuming. I'm a fast eater, so it's kind of bums me out when I spend hours making a dish and I eat it in 20 minutes, haha! But perhaps the most difficult recipes have been the traditional French-Canadian ones that take two days to make – like Pork Feet and Meatball stews. I'm going to be making one of these next week for Xmas.
What recipe/s are you working on currently, if any?
Right now, I am making homemade buckwheat bread and it is slowly rising – I will be baking it tomorrow morning. Then, I will be making pizza from scratch with sauce made of tomatoes from my garden. I got some organic carrots and cabbage fermenting, and crabapple wine being brewed. I had a taste this morning (I need to rake it every 45 days for 6 months and add honey every time) and it was really delicious – although really mild in alcohol just yet. It will be ready next fall only!
It would be great to watch you cook sometime; have you ever considered starting a channel to exhibit your culinary skills?
When the cookbook came out ten years ago, a Montreal company approached me to do recipe capsules – we did a pilot of two recipes in a real TV kitchen. They turned out really cool actually, but no TV channel was interested to buy them. You Tube existed of course, but it was nowhere as massive as it is today. I still have a DVD of the episodes but can't put them online due to production rights.
Are there any chefs you draw inspiration from?
No, not really. I mostly want to replicate recipes I've tried before, so I watch "how to" videos or look at images for inspiration.
All this talk of food is getting me hungry, back to metal. How was the name Cauchemar contrived?
Back in those days and since childhood actually, I was having really intense nightmares – a lot of them finished with me dying in some sort of strange circumstance. It's in French, but I wrote a small piece about it in the CD booklet of the first Cauchemar EP. Oh yeah, Cauchemar means nightmare in French! And in other languages as well.
'Freedom' is cited as one of your lyrical themes; in what context is that word explored and used with regards to Cauchemar's music?
Free will, free to travel, free to do whatever we want musically.
I take it since the English translation of Cauchemar is 'Nightmare' much of what is written and recorded takes prominence in occult horror tales be it folklore or even movies; thus, what are some of the tales and movies and periods in time most influential to the band music?
We have many influences; from French esoteric authors (like Fulcanelli) to animist spirituality, French mythologies, traditional horror and the culture of death worship.
Where Cauchemar's lyrical concept is concerned, does the term 'nightmare' transcend what some consider dreams and hallucinations, does it touch base with reality?
The songs are written in a cryptic manner, full of symbolism and double extenders, which keep the songs vague, like in a dream.
Would you be willing to share some of your own experiences that may have been a contributing factor to Cauchemar's nightmare thematic?
Beside my nightmares being the source of the band's name, we don't really have a "nightmare" thematic. But the name has the right feeling to it. The songs are mostly spiritual in nature, but we are not afraid of exploring the dark corners of life through them.
Do you see Cauchemar adapting a darker sound and exploring themes more macabre in the future? I ask because you do a splendid job projecting beautiful passages in capturing a true occult doom experience.
Thank you so much! We already have five songs written for our next full length, and so far a few of them explore French mysticism themes. But of course, the macabre will always be very much present in our music!
Is there any country and/or event you would like to play live in the future that you have not played before?
We'd love to play in Japan, Greece and in… the Great North! It is a bit of a dream to play in Igloolik – perhaps to open for the Inuit Heavy Rock band Northern Haze. Who knows!
It has been a pleasure speaking with, Annick 'The Morbid Chef Giroux'. MetalBite wishes Cauchemar the best in all future musical efforts, and seasons blessings.
Thank you! We appreciate your well-thought questions, which also made me quite hungry, haha!
In closing, is there anything you would like to add?
We are taking a break from doing concerts in 2020 – and will be returning to the stage once our new record is out. Looking forward what the future will hold…
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