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Interviews   

The Devil’s Blood: Selim Lemouchi and death


« To be honest, Selim, I must say I have few questions about your music » , said I, exaggerating only slightly, halfway through the interview. Talking to the mastermind behind The Devil’s Blood means talking about much more than just the band’s music and delving into their imagery, their lyrics and their fascination with death.

The members of the band perform on stage drenched in blood. Pig blood, most of the time, but sometimes human. Selim Lemouchi, the band’s guitarist and mastermind, went as far as painting one of the walls of his apartment with his own blood for magic rituals. For this interview, the subject of his fascination with death even led us to talk about his own suicide and the way he would go about it! We’ll let you discover his answer in the interview.

In short, the band represents the very cliché the detractors of metal like to ridicule: « a bunch of blood-covered crazies carrying out morbid rituals ».

However, if the aforementioned people ever happen upon this article, I would only tell them one thing: read the interview. What the extremely humble Selim Lemouchi has to say is essential to destroy this prejudice. These sorts of things are marginal and can be a little scary, but they’re neither futile nor devoid of meaning or interest. And as you will see, Selim is far from crazy. He’s a pleasant, humble sort of fellow (he even envies the listeners who have the opportunity to discover his album for the first time. According to him, his opinion is worth less than that of his audience, since they’re more objective), a smart man with a different vision of life. Different, yes – but still pertinent. To give you an example, we would be hard put trying to contradict him when he wonders whether we really mourn the fate of deceased relatives or friends, or the fact that they abandoned us.




« There is not one meaning, and my meaning is not the same as yours. To give you my meaning would ruin yours, so it would make no sense. »

Radio Metal : You recently signed a deal with Metal Blade records. What can you say to us about this collaboration?

Selim Lemouchi (guitar) : Well, we needed a good record label in the United States, and they wanted to have a good band, so that’s about it [laughs]. We were looking long time for a good partner who could help us out in North America, Canada, and we send them some of the tracks of the record to listen to. They were very excited about it, and wanted to work with us. That’s basically it, and I hope they will do a good job so we will be able to go on tour in America and spread our name even further.

Your music has a very psychedelic rock vibe, like it used to be in the 60s’ and the 70s’, not only in the sound or the influences but in your way of writing music, of starting with a melody or a riff and exploiting all the ways of playing this melody or this riff. Do you think that nowadays bands have lost that?

I don’t know actually. To be honest, I don’t consider ourselves to be specifically a 70s’ or 60s’ oriented rock band. I think that we’re a rock’n’roll band who is not afraid of exploring all the possibilities that is within the music. Me as a person, in writing the music and writing the lyrics, I am very influenced by people like Ennio Morricone and other movie-score writers, songwriters like Tom Waits and also a lot of heavy metal, death metal, black metal stuff… I guess when you put all of those together and you make a cocktail of them, something like the Devil’s Blood will come out. That’s not my place to say what other bands are missing or doing wrong or doing right, because I can only speak for myself. For me, this is the only music that I can make.

It’s commonly said that the best way to find out if a melody or a song is good is to play it acoustically. Is this why you always start to write a song with your acoustic guitar?

I guess that’s because it’s the easiest way. You don’t need to plug in anything, you don’t need to look up any effect, you just have your guitar and your inspiration. You can have a piece of paper and a pen to write down the words as the music and the words come in at the same time. And you know, that’s a very practical instrument. You can take one with you for example, anywhere you want to go, and without a lot of trouble. It’s more practical than a piano or something else.

« It’s like this reality was already a reality before I wrote the song. The song itself previously existed, probably for thousands years, and the only thing that I did was take it out of the ether and concretize it in this world so everybody can listen to it. »

What’s striking in the packaging of the new album is that from the outside the artwork is very minimalistic and very elegant, and when you open it you see the book with the lyrics and all these insane and psychedelic pictures. Do you think that it is the best way to describe your personnality and your music? Quiet from the outside, but completely mad in the inside?

Perhaps, especially the way it came across to you at least, there’s probably some truth to it. The artwork itself got created in a very spontaneous way. We simply gave our music and leave it to the artist, and he created what you see in the booklet. On a book, in the outside, you only have the title and the composer or the writer, and when you open up the book, this is when the experiences start to flow. So I guess in a way when you open our book also the experience starts to flow as you go along with the music and experience every songs together with the art.

The next question may seem a bit weird to you, but there I go: while preparing this interview I realised that I had actually only a few questions about your music, but a tons of questions about the meaning of it and what’s behind it. Does that often happen to you with the journalists?

Yes, there are a lot of people trying to get me to explain the lyrics or the titles. The only unfortunate thing is that those have to accept that I don’t talk about this too much, because I can’t, because it’s impossible. I cannot explain the lyrics any further. They have already explained themselves. I can imagine that these questions arise when you’re listening to our music and reading our lyrics. A lot of questions appear, but these questions can’t be answered by me or by anyone else, but only by the listener himself. When these questions are not projected so much on the band or in the music but in one’s self, I think the questions become a little bit more interesting, and the answers themselves become more important.

Does that mean that all the lyrics have a meaning but you want to keep it for you?

No, not exactly. What I mean is that there is not one meaning, and my meaning is not the same as yours. To give you my meaning would ruin yours, so it would make no sense. It’s like you’re standing in front of a painting, and me telling you what you should see, instead of you telling me what you see. You’re telling yourself what you see. Music and art are something that should be experienced subjectively. When you try to objectivise these things, they lose their strenght, they lose their appeal. When we explain everything until there’s nothing left to explain, we kill everything that was alive inside. What I’m trying to say is your opinion or the meaning you find within the music and the lyrics of The Devil’s Blood is equally as true, as important and as valid as mine. So that’s all. Find your own meaning.

That’s interesting because since you wrote the songs and you wrote the lyrics you have maybe more legitimity to talk about it.

No, because I don’t see it as I wrote it. I merely… received it. It’s like this reality was already a reality before I wrote the song. The song itself previously existed, probably for thousands years, and the only thing that I did was take it out of the ether and concretize it in this world so everybody can listen to it. That’s the end of my participation. It’s not something that I created. It’s something that I have allowed to be experienced.

« I put so much thoughts, and so much efforts into it that I would never be able to get the same amount of new, spontaneous feelings from the record that can have someone that never heard it before. I envy the person who will be able to listen to the record for the first time. »

Actually you put yourself in the same level as the listener…

Absolutely, and maybe even lower! Because I put so much thoughts, and so much efforts into it that I would never be able to get the same amount of new, spontaneous feelings from the record that can have someone that never heard it before. I envy the person who will be able to listen to the record for the first time. I guess it’s the same if you are the director of a movie. You’ve made this beautiful movie, you go into the theaters and people are watching it: it would never have the same amount of emotions to you as it will for someone who has absolutely no idea on what’s going to happen. That’s the way we experience life: not by what we expect or what we can predict but by everything we can’t predict and can’t expect, everything that surprises us, and everything that turns our mind into a different direction and confuses us. That’s when the interesting stuff happen.

Ok, so that means that artists cannot enjoy a work of art like listeners, or like viewers, like others, because they have no surprise…

They are closer to it, which makes it more difficult to appreciate it in a spontaneous way, obviously.

Do you think that the most important and interesting thing in music isn’t actually the music itself but what is behind the music?

I guess it’s different for everyone. The mystical power of music is that it can make you think about things that you didn’t dreamed possible before, that you can experience emotions at the touch of a button that you might not otherwise be able to experience. So I guess music does have a very powerful, magical quality to it. If this is use in a proper manner then it becomes a very, very powerful tool.

On a documentary about you and the band, you declared that from the age 16 to 26, you’ve been living a life that wasn’t reflecting who you really were. Do you think that this kind of struggle concerns a lot of musicians, and that that’s why they write music?

Perhaps? Perhaps this is a common trait that a lot of people share, this sense of unbelonging, of not being home in this world, perhaps, I don’t know, I can only speak for myself, obviously.

Because that is actually the meaning of a painting you have at home which represents an androgynous person who’s punishing herself, right?

That was a part of it I suppose, yeah. That’s just a painting I made a few years ago… The painting itself does not symbolize me, it’s just something that I wanted to paint. It doesn’t say so much about me as it does about certain principles that I wanted to translate into art.

At your place, there is also a wall painted with your own blood. I suppose, then, since it’s an important ritual for you, that you also go on stage with real and human blood?

Well, human blood is a bit difficult to get in such large quantities, it has happened by the way, but usually we use pig blood.

« It’s something that beckons me in the distance, like a safe heaven, like a port, you know? My life is on the seas, and one day I will put my ship into the port, and walk the endless hills. »

All of your work is related to death. Since it really looks like you admire death, aren’t you tempted to experiment it for real?

No, not tempted, but this is a reality of life that one day we shall experience, yeah. It’s the ultimate initiation into one of the largest mystery of the universe, and it’s not something that I need to hurry up at this point [he laughs], because I have enough to do. But it’s not something that scares me. It’s something that beckons me in the distance, like a safe heaven, like a port, you know? My life is on the seas, and one day I will put my ship into the port, and walk the endless hills. It’s a very joyous and merry thing to think about. It will be the defining moment of my life.

Do you think that you won’t wait for death? That maybe some day you’re gonna decide when the time is right for you to leave?

I hope so. I hope so, but it is of course up to destiny, it’s difficult to say. But I hope I’ll be able to make the choice myself.

Ok, and do you know how you’d do it?

To be honest I didn’t give it that much thought. I think I’d probably set for hanging.

« The reason why people cry at funerals is not because they pity the dead for being dead, it’s for themselves being left behind. »

Since we’re talking about death, how do you feel when someone close to you pass away? Are you sad or are you envious?

Both, because the reason people cry at funerals is not because they pity the dead for being dead, it’s for themselves being left behind. We don’t cry to shed tears over the ended life, but we cry over our own unended lives and over still having to continue walking through this life without that certain someone who was very close to us, which makes our travel that little bit more difficult. At the same time I envy those who have been blessed with what I already called the vision of the mystery, the perfection of the end. So I guess it’s a little bit of both, and there is no shame in any of that. It’s a very human emotion to feel sadness or envy, jealousy, rage, anger… These are what defines us as living beings and we should never be afraid of any of that.

Sex and love are also very present on this record, in the lyrics and in the artwork. How is love related to death for you?

Completely and totally. They are one and the same, in the same way that hate and love are so closely tied together by passion.

Interview conducted on Monday, December, 12th, 2011 by phone
Transcrption : Chloé

The Devil’s Blood’s website : www.thedevilsblood.com



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