I sometimes wonder how I used to entertain myself at the day job in the days before cell phones were able to play videos and the invention of youtube. As the gray walls of making a living surround me, I find entertainment in my cube. Surfing youtube watching videos from The Old Dead Tree. Surfing my way through the realm of live clips and videos its amazing to see how The Old Dead Tree has progressed. Their music has gotten heavier and more melodic.The songs moving from personal pain to character driven stories. This evolution adds more intensity,urgency and in some cases more darkness to their latest album The Water Fields. So what makes a band break from the age old tradition of using their music to bare their souls to writing more about other people than themselves? I got the chance to talk to The Old Dead Tree's Manuel Munoz not long ago, to pick his brain on touring, French Metal and courting the Muse.
The concept behind the water fields is very interesting how did the idea develop?
Before writing the lyrics of our new album “The Water Fields”, I would have define lyrics as a very “selfish” way to deal with my personal questions and problems. But things were different this time, as I tried focusing more on the people around me : my relatives, my friends, my family. Maybe it is a bit silly, but after the release of our second album, “The Perpetual Motion”, I realised that too many people I never met before knew all about my intimate feelings and pains. That’s why I wanted the “The Water Fields” lyrics to be “other people” oriented. Observing them, I tried to analyse the way they react to a serious problem. I realised that the first reaction people have when confronted to pain is to hide or to run away from it. That’s how I imagined this common imaginary place, a kind of safe haven where we can rest: The Water Fields. There’s no main story in this album, but just several little ones. Some of them are connected, some others not...
Do you find it difficult to write in so many voices all at once?
Well not really… After I wrote two albums with lyrics focused on personal experiences, I felt the need to change my inspiration sources. In fact, it was a deliberate attempt on my part to focus on several persons and in there way to react while facing different life situations and problems.
Going into making this album the band went through some lineup changes. Was creating this album more difficult because of the changes?
The band’s activity evolved a lot since the release of our previous album “The Perpetual Motion”. This album received a warm welcome and we did lots of shows and festivals as headliner or main support act. Our guitarist Nicolas choose to focus on his private life, as he became a father. As being one of the founder member but also a very close friend, his decision was really difficult... Fortunately, we found in Gilles an excellent successor. Our new guitarist is an excellent composer with a deep sense of melody. He was very well integrated in the band and brings new influences to us. “The Water Fields” songs are a kind of a mix between the past, present and future. I mean that Nicolas and I worked together before he left the band, but I also wrote some songs alone and Gilles and I composed together all the remaining ones. This can explain the variety of the album. Regarding the lyrics and the vocal lines, I used to work alone at home without any influence coming from my mates.
When putting an album together do you find it better to start with composing the music then write the lyrics or do you start with lyrics and ideas?
I don’t have any control over my inspiration sources. In fact, composing and writing lyrics is a very “painful” process to me. Creativity doesn’t want to come naturally, I need to force it, I need to focus a very long time before having some new material to work on. Writing lyrics is even more difficult as I first compose the vocal melody lines and rhythm. The words have to fit with the rhythm and to be adapted to the changes of riffs. I really admire people like Mike Akerfeldt from Opeth, for example. He is able to compose and write full time albums in a very short time. Personally, I don’t have such a talent and I need to work and work again before feeling satisfied by my music.
I know you get asked to explain your lyrics a lot, so without spoiling the fun of interpretation, what do you hope people get from your music?
I think our music can be described as some kind of a mix between death metal and pop music. It’s quite hard to explain, because our influences go from Paradise Lost to Muse, or from In Flames to Pink Floyd. We don’t want to settle any limits, provided that music is staying driven by strong feelings and deep emotions. People can get whatever they want from our music and concerning the lyrics everyone is free to have its own interpretation.
You're one of what seems to be very few metal bands in France. What's the scene like there?
We always wanted to avoid limiting us to France only. Indeed, there is still a lack of structures and culture for Metal music in our home-country, even if we note that things are really improving fast now… fortunately! And maybe that French media and press will soon open its mind to others artists than just „chanson“ or „hip-hop“ in a near future… In this context, it is certainly more difficult for a French Metal band to achieve a true professional status. Therefore, the French bands must work extremely hard and seek originality and the best quality if they want to gather attention from the international scene, media, audience, etc… Gojira has very well understood this and succeeded through its work and the unique quality of his music!
When writing do you find it easier to write in French or English? Would you ever do an album in all French?
Well I really don’t think we will release an album in French soon. The thing is that it doesn’t come to me naturally... I still love my mother tongue but I just think it is not suitable for this kind of music.
You already have a fairly large fan base in Europe how has you work bee received in the US and the rest of the world?
It was easier for us to focus on Europe first for obvious “logistics” reasons. Touring and promoting is more easy in Europe if you are based in Paris. Of course the USA are a very big market, but also different from Europe. You need some numerous gigs and a strong local presence in order to develop in the States. We do already have some positive reactions from the USA regarding our music and maybe it will make sense to organize a tour sooner or later… Countries like Canada, Brazil and Mexico have also shown interest in The Old Dead Tree…
You're also a band that tours a lot are there any plans to tour the states?
Not for the moment but we are seriously thinking about it, as we already received some proposals. I really hope we will find some opportunities to visit the States soon!
What do you see in the future for the old dead tree?
Conquering the world still ranks n°1 in my “things to do before I’m 30” list… but I think I won’t have enough time for that! More seriously, I would say that touring and promoting this album still remain among our top priorities right now!
THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR INTEREST AND SUPPORT!
See you sometime, somewhere…