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    Posted: April 28 2015 at 01:58


More than two years after the release of their debut EP Eventualities, Atlas Volt are back with a 17-track double LP entitled Memento Mori

Here is my interview with this “unconventional” prog duo formed by Adam Hansen-Chambers and Philippe Longchamps.







  Where do you live?


Philippe: I live in the Malmö/Lund metropolitan area in Sweden since 2002, but I’m originally from Sherbrooke, Québec in Canada.

Adam: Right now I live in London, but I used to live in Sweden too. That’s where we met in 2011!

Philippe: Yes, we started our music project in Sweden, but when Adam moved back to England before the release of our debut EP, we decided to continue working together while using a system of audio file exchange to complete our songs. We meet occasionally in London or Malmö for recording sessions and we produce our songs by sending each other overdubbed tracks via the Internet. Basically, that’s how we work.




 Tell us how Atlas Volt has started and when did you decide to work together?

Philippe: I was determined to start recording music on my own, and once I was able afford to buy the equipment I needed, I started to look for someone to give me a recording and mixing crash course in Logic Pro. I was familiar with other DAWs like Cubase and Cakewalk, but I knew it would be smart to get some help and tips to speed up the learning process. Then by pure coincidence, I saw Adam’s add on the billboard at Malmö City Library. He was still living in Sweden at that time. He was offering courses in music production with Pro Tools and Logic Pro. I called him; we had a few beers in a pub one afternoon, had an amazing chat and started to show each other some demos we were working on. Needless to say we both felt that we clicked on the musical and philosophical level. Adam suggested that the best way for me to learn how to use Logic Pro was to start recording and mixing the songs I was already working on. Then Adam started to write new arrangements for these songs, while I was writing lyrics for some of his compositions. Progressively, we started to collaborate on new material, exchanging audio tracks and ideas, and that was the beginning of Atlas Volt.




 And then you recorded your debut EP; tell us more about Eventualities ?


Philippe: I’m still amazed by the fact that these five first Atlas Volt’s songs have managed to help us build this modest but incredibly dedicated fan base. To be among the bestsellers on Bandcamp.com for a few weeks was also incredible, but to have one of our songs reaching #1 on the popular radio show ‘P3-Star’ on Sweden’s National Radio Station, while spending 5 weeks in the ‘Unsigned Artists Top 10 chart’, was truly amazing. We are so grateful for the support we received! This EP has five different themes and each song has a distinctive sound. The song “Taken by the Tide” deals with the convergence of the media, “Mother Nature’s Infanticide” deals with the environment, while “History is Written in Blood”, “Shine your Own Light” and “Find Myself Lost” have themes that obviously speak for themselves. Let’s say that as a DIY virtual band, we reached more than our goals… We also managed to make meaning of what we were doing by supporting a good cause. We gave 10% of the profit generated from all the CDs we sold to research on cancer.  




 Atlas Volt is a prog rock duo. How would you define your sub-genre of prog?



Adam: I think it’s hard to define Atlas Volt’s sound as any one specific sub-genre, because we shift around a lot from track to track… We don’t aim to be any particular style!

 

Philippe: Yes I agree! It’s not so important for us to know how people will “label” our style. In theory, each song could belong to a different category! However, if I must define it, I would say that Atlas Volt is an eclectic prog band, because we love to trespass the boundaries of what constitute the classic definition of prog rock. Some people defined our debut EP as crossover prog, others have called the song “Find Myself Lost” a neo-prog epic, but I have no problem with that because, in my opinion, both sub-genres are often overlapping. However, some of our songs contain the narrative elements of prog rock, but people might classify them in the indie rock, grunge, post-metal or alternative category.






  I had the special honour to be the first prog fan in the World to hear your new album. I testify that this is a masterpiece, and I congratulate you.

 

Adam: Thanks!

Philippe: It’s an honour for us to have you guys at Progarchives be the first to hear our new material!


  The album was very ambitiously conceived and well executed. How would you define your new record in a few words?

Adam: It’s a liberating and rocky journey into skepticism.

Philippe: To paraphrase the title of one of the songs on the album, I hope that “Memento Mori” will become “Atlas Volt’s legacy to the world”.



 

  The lyrics of your new album “Memento Mori” are great. How did you get the inspiration for the lyrics?

 

Philippe: My intention was to write thought-provoking lyrics reflecting upon the secular humanist worldview, and turn them into some kind of narrative filled with parallelism and self-reflective elements. The inspiration for this darker theme comes from the painful self-examination that accompanies what some people like to refer to as my ‘mid-life crisis’. I have to admit that soon after having kids, the meaning of my life changed drastically. I felt like I started to see ‘the big picture’ of my existence and understood how my individual apprehension of reality had been conditioned by the selfish elements of the spiritual doctrines I used to believe in and follow in the past. In other words, “Memento Mori” is some kind of retrospective introspection into my own religious upbringing. Furthermore, Adam and I were raised in Catholic confessional schools and we both understand their limitations in comparison to the secular ones. The lyrics are often presented as an inner dialogue between an “old-self” preaching the value of faith and morality, and a “new-self” defending the ethical values that emerged from the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution. With this musical narrative, we hope to offer our modest artistic contribution to what we consider one of the most important debates of our times. We wanted “Memento Mori” to be seen as a concept album that questions the fundamentalist dogmas of religions and New Age cults, while examining their promises of an afterlife and restrictions on personal freedom. Our goal is to leave no one indifferent! If some of our songs can generate discussions, reflections or debate, we will feel that we’ve accomplished our artistic mission.



 

  The collage of styles is stronger on your new album than on your debut EP. It seems that mixing styles is one of the main feature of contemporary prog rock. How important is mixing styles in your work?

Adam: We both listen to such a variety of music that we naturally write music in styles that we are inspired by. Therefore, this isn’t something we do deliberately, we just write music that we like to hear. It’s dead simple for us. We’re not trying to claim to be any one style.


How was it to work on a concept album?

Adam: It felt pretty natural to me, as most of the records I listen to are concept albums. 

Philippe: For me, it’s been the most challenging creative process I ever experienced. Not only because of the distance separating us, but also because of the painful self-examination required to explore such a dark theme. Furthermore, I write all the lyrics of our songs in my second language (English). This makes song writing quite challenging sometimes, because French is my mother tongue, and on top of that I use Swedish on a daily basis since I moved to Sweden in 2002. But as a whole, the concept album also reflects our shared state of mind. We are both profoundly affected by the waves of violence sweeping around the world and by all the Human Rights abuses committed in the name of some kind of “higher God-given moral standards” or “superior socio-political ideologies”. That’s why Adam and I decided to dedicate this new album to all the innocent victims of faith-based fundamentalism throughout history.


  Your album artwork is stunning again! Tell me about the artist?


Adam: I simply came across an illustration called ‘Defeat’ on a Facebook page called “The Art of Andrzej Kuziola” and I shared the link with Philippe.

Philippe: It’s true and I loved it! I contacted this great Polish artist, living in Scotland less than 5 minutes after seeing the illustration Adam sent me! I knew he was the one we needed! I wanted to find someone who would be able to recreate the sketches I made in a more professional way. The quality of our artwork is one of the things I’m very proud of. Andrzej Kuziola has been working with us from the beginning and his illustrations have become an integral part of Atlas Volt. We are lucky to collaborate with such a talented and hard-working illustrator! Please visit his amazing website: www.kuziola.com



A digital sculpture by Andrzej Kuziola, 2011




My favourite song from the album is the title track ‘Memento Mori’. Tell me something more about that song?



Adam: I wrote and recorded the music whilst I was living in Sweden. It was probably largely influenced by the dark Swedish winter and seasonal depression that ensued… It just came out of me, without a defined work frame but more out of a melancholic frame of mind. I always layer guitars to create a vibe that resonates my mood.



 

Philippe: When I first heard the demo version of Adam’s composition, I could hear the melody of the missing vocal part right away! Adam already had “Memento Mori” as a working title, so from that, I started to write pages and pages of ideas on that theme. That was the moment the “vision” started to take shape! Interestingly, most of the lyrics I came up with for that song became songs of their own. The idea of making this song the centrepiece of a concept album slowly emerged. Adam wasn’t keen on the idea at first, but I’m glad I insisted! The lyrics that didn’t make the cut for Adam’s composition became ‘canvases’ for at least 9 of my compositions on the new album. Of course sometimes, they became part of verses, choruses or bridges, but because of the fact that these lyrics were related to the same theme, it felt natural to continue to develop the songs I was working on around that theme.




What were your influences, before you started to write songs together?

Adam: All sorts and too many to list: Tool, Cloudkicker, Oceansize, Karnivool, TesaracT, Dillinger Escape Plan, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Rós, Muse, A Perfect Circle, Mono, Earth, Mogwai, Pink Floyd, Yes, Black Sabbath, Queen, just to name a few. It would go on and on…

 

Philippe: Since my childhood I have a ‘Holy Trinity’ of bands at the top of my list: Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. But when I met Adam in 2011, my main influences were extremely wide-ranging. I have had different phases in my life. At one point in the early 90’s, I was really into world music and indo prog, then I discovered progressive trance music in the late 90’s, but I always came back to my favourite classic prog rock albums by: King Crimson, Rush, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes, Mike Oldfield, The Alan Parsons Project, Jethro Tull and the early ones from Genesis. Being from Québec, I also love many French speaking artists and bands like: Harmonium, Les Colocs, Beau Dommage, Claude Dubois, Daniel Bélanger, and other artist from that part of Canada like: The Tea Party, Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, Patrick Watson, UZEB, Grim Skunk and Voivod. I also embraced the grunge era, and became a huge fan of Alice in Chains, especially because of their beautiful vocal harmonies. When I moved to Sweden, I became fan of the band Kent that sings in Swedish. I also love Ozric Tentacles, The Pineapple Thief, Billy Cobham and Porcupine Tree. However, I have to admit that there are too many artists in different genres that I find inspirational, but if I had to pick only three bands among those that inspired me the most since the mid-90’s, I would have to say: Radiohead, Tool and Dead Can Dance. 



What is your view on prog culture of today?


Philippe: I think it’s becoming more and more inclusive. It’s unusual, but as new prog sub-genres are emerging, the prog culture doesn’t break down into more subcultures, like in hip-hop or techno music for example. It seems to me that the prog-heads have become more open-minded and versatile in their music tastes.




Your songs are very melodic. What about melody in the present day's prog rock? – Don’t you think that the contemporary prog bands are moving away from melody?


Philippe: That’s strange; in my opinion some of my favourite prog artists of today are actually going back towards more melodic hooks and anthem-like structures. Last week for example, I went to Steven Wilson’s concert in Malmö and I found myself humming the melodies of his ''Hand. Cannot. Erase Tour” for hours after the concert ended. These are melodies of such compelling beauty, that they get stuck in your head, even if they don’t necessarily have the “catchiness” of the repetitive and predictable pop melodies we hear on commercial radio. Furthermore, some of the newest Crossover prog melodies, like the ones written by Steven Wilson, are so flawless that it feels like I have known them forever, the first time I hear them. The same feeling I had when I discovered The Beatles while listening to my uncle’s record collection as a young kid.



 

Adam: I think repetition and challenging rhythms are at the forefront of some of the new prog that I’m into. I still think there’s a great deal of melody going on, but sometimes you have to work for it and spend a lot of time with the music to be able to digest the complexity of melodies. Bands like TesseracT are a good example. They are masters of complex rhythms and the epic vocals bring in the melody that the listener latches on to, and it gets stuck in your head all day long. I am all about melody at the end of the day. Oceansize (RIP) and Karnivool are great examples of prog bands who use a great deal of melody and make songs into very memorable tunes



Which equipment did you use to record the new album?

Adam: A very simple set-up. We record straight into interfaces connected to our laptops. We mix right out of the box, using Logic Pro and a wide range of cool plug-ins. The various instruments we use are recorded using close mic techniques. I also do the mastering directly in my laptop while using good monitors. That’s it!

 

Philippe: Yeah, that’s it! We haven’t spent any time in a studio to record, produce, mix or master our music. Everything is homemade! I record all my vocals in a walk-in closet at home, because the acoustic is fantastic there! For my classic and acoustic guitars, I always let Adam set up the microphones. After all, he’s a trained sound engineer and I still have a lot to learn from him about recording techniques. Previously on our debut EP, I only used my Indian sitar for arrangements, but this time I used it as a lead instrument to record an interlude called “Purusartha”. I also use an awesome Swedish-made digital drum, 2Box Drumit 5, with different soundbanks and I use a standard MIDI keyboard with a selection of amazing synth, piano and mellotron emulators.


What are your personal favourite songs from Eventualities and Memento Mori?



Adam: Mother Nature’s Infanticide and Memento Mori.


 


Philippe: On “Eventualities” my favourite is probably “Find Myself Lost” because of the epic song structure and the importance of the events that inspired me the lyrics. I also keep a special place in my heart for “Shine Your Own Light” because I wrote this song as an artistic heritage, with a simple self-empowering message, to my children. It also has a vibe that reminds me of the more easy-listening prog and pop music I was listening to when I was a kid (Alan Parsons Project, Duran Duran and Marillion). On “Memento Mori” it’s hard to say, I love them all! They all serve a purpose in the greater narrative. But if I had to choose 3 very different ones today, I would say, “What’s Your Legacy to the World”, “True Freedom” and the long prog epic “Wrong”. 


 Do you make plans for a tour?

 

Adam: No, with the distance between us it’s not really possible.

 

Philippe: Yeah, and I can hardly imagine how it would be possible for Adam and I to perform our songs live without session musician to support us! People also need to understand that Adam and I would never be able to sustain losing money on a tour. After all, we are 100% independent; we don’t have a record deal, we self-finance and self-produce everything we do. We have no manager; no marketing team, no booking agent and we both have day-jobs! So to be honest, Atlas Volt is only our hobby! Furthermore, the fact that we are a virtual band with 2 multi-instrumentalists living in different countries makes it very difficult to meet for rehearsal. I think we will stick to writing, recording, producing, mixing and mastering our songs at the moment and see what the future might hold for us. We love to have complete artistic freedom and we think it’s the only way to go for Atlas Volt.


Sweden is a prog rock superpower. I have no doubt that Atlas Volt will find their rightful place on that big stage.

Philippe: Thanks Svetonio! I hope you are right, because Sweden has always been a music superpower, not only for prog rock! It’s amazing that since the 70’s, Sweden is the third largest exporter of music after USA and UK.


  What is your favourite album of the last decade?

 

Adam: I’d have to say Karnivool - Asymmetry. Those guys blow my mind! Incredible musicians!

 

Philippe: That’s a very difficult question! There are too many!!! If I must pick one only, I would say Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories).

 

 What’s coming up next for Atlas Volt?

 

Adam: To be honest, we don’t know.

 

Philippe: Yeah, we put so much effort into “Memento Mori” we will see how it goes before making any plans. We might record a video or two, but we also encourage our fans to make fan art videos. Just go ahead! Make cool videos, animations or photomontages and send them over to us and we will post them on our YouTube channel. We welcome our fans to become part of Atlas Volt. Any kind of Fan Art is welcome! For those of you who are interested to know the latest updates on our music project, the best way to get fresh updates is to “like” Atlas Volt on Facebook or follow us on Google+ or Twitter.

 

 I will do that and I hope our readers will do the same! I will put the links for those who would like to know what you guys are up to in the future.

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Atlas-Volt/210643092403559?ref=hl

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpjjclBVCupcIQzi9QsoZ6Q

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105058757472960311799/posts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AtlasVolt

Website: www.atlasvolt.com

 

 Atlas Volt, thank you for the interview!

 

Adam: Back at yeh!

 

Philippe: Thanks to you and your readers, Cheers!



Edited by Svetonio - April 28 2015 at 20:19
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